I have removed a post not in line with Intergalactic Summit regulations.
Updated with entries to date. We are still rather low on entries, but there’s still plenty of time to submit! Deadline is May 31st!
If you aren’t a writer, but read something you think is worthwhile that meets the contest rules, you can also nominate them for the contest!
I would like to submit my recent study Ghost in the Shell - Genetic memory and it’s effects on Immortality.for consideration in the ‘Other’ Category for Scientific Articles.
I would like to enter Postal drones to category 3.
A post was merged into an existing topic: OOC Category - YC 125 New Eden Capsuleers Writing Contest
Nice contest! Surprised I didn’t hear of it years ago.
I submit His Home Was Among the Stars for the prose category, as well as the romance and Minmatar culture themes.
Updated with all known entries to date! Reminded deadline is MAY 31st!
For the Poetry category I would like to submit a set of Haiku inspired by the Hanalua Island and Surf Resort.
Crystal blue sparkles,
Wave crests behind, heart racing.
White beach, distant shore.
Sunset meets ocean.
Casting red and oranges.
Millions gold freckles.
Salt and Sea and Sun
On gentle breeze through window
Wake up and be home.
Having previously been a judge for this longstanding and amazing competition, I’m now happy to enter as participant. Best of luck to other entrants.
Michelle ‘Lightning’ Lemmont.
Affiliate of Quafe.
This is a Small Prayer said before my fleets that I’m trying to make a habit of. Rhyming of course makes it easier to remember.
"God of mercy, hear our plea,
Grant us strength and victory.
Guide us with your holy light,
Through the darkness of the fight.
Bless our weapons, bless our fleet,
Make our enemies know defeat.
Protect our comrades, keep them safe,
As we go forth in your grace.
We fight to serve, to glorify,
With courage and honor, we’ll never die.
Amarr Victor" - Dameon Jaeger
I spent a lot of time on it to help train new pilots and I hope it comes in handy for some, weather I get isk or not, I feel like it might alleviate some headaches for Fleet Commanders.
I would like to submit a group work in the form of political discourse titled:
by Gallente, Caldari, Ammarian-Caldari and Minmatar authors, a truly universal work!
Updated with all known (to me!) entries to date. Two weeks left until submission deadline!
YC 124 NEWCWC -Salvaged-
“What is your name?”
“Bellia” I said.
The man chuckled. His voice slurped making me think of a serpent, like the one that poisoned St. Temusu. His hand reached out to pat my head. I ducked behind my mother’s skirt. Snake man stood tall, the jovial grin crinkling his nose. I hissed at him. Mom shushed me.
His hand moved to trace his jaw. The other drew out a monies fold.
“You got a card yet? Naw, you don’t. Fresh boaties so the cash discount applies. I’ll give you twenty ISK for her. You know what an ISK is?”
Mom put her free hand across me. The other was wrapped tight around my baby sister. Mom backed up pressing us to a crowd that wouldn’t yield. No one wanted to be on the edge. An old woman said that was where the vultures fed. Snake man grabbed mom’s arm, leaning in close, whispering.
“You know you’re all headed for the Republic camps. That girl won’t be left in one piece. There isn’t enough food and she won’t sell for half as much.”
He flashed some metal rectangles. I could see Mom’s pupils follow them. Mom clutched my sister tighter.
“She’ll have a good life, educated even. This will feed you and that tiny one for a year at least.”
Mothers arm of protection slackened.
“Get away from there!” came a shout.
The man shoved mother down, flinging the rectangles to glitter across the floor. His hand lashed, wrapping fully around my wrist. I struck him. My fists punching to the stiff fabric of his jacket. He laughed. I looked to the crowd of my fellow Amarrians. There was a surge, but not to reclaim me. Three men threw themselves to the front, scrabbling to grab the monies. Mom howled, rolling to shelter my sister- or maybe rolling to guard the ISK?
“Mom!” I screamed. The man twisted my arm. I yelped, my feet tripping as they dragged across the floor. One sandal dangled off my big toe. Then it was lost. My bare foot set down to the metal tread of the station.
“Hush” he hissed. His free hand coming across my face, lightly. “You will have a better life with me.”
My hand reached for the wooden sun dangling on my chest. The symbol of God. He would help me help myself. I reached up and poked Snake man in the eye.
“You little ■■■■.” He jerked me up onto my tippy toes, his hand squeezing my chin.
It was then I noticed them. Three fearsom men with eyes shadowed, wild Matari. Each was clad in leather with more pockets than any man could ever need, long knives tucked in the belts. The smallest one would have surely intimidated Master Talobhu’s guard. He had a face all drawn with rusty lines like a raging water ripple. The three surrounded us. My heart, I felt it thump in my neck where Snake held my chin. I must not be worthy of love. God has left me.
Snake suddenly released me. I curled up, watching. The smallest one barked thick words. Snake growled “Quota”, backing up, his eyes flashing between power and fear. The man with a red bandanna on his head countered him, shoving him forward. Snake struck then, elbowing to push away. The third man caught him by the shoulder. Red Bandanna grabbed his other arm. The smallest man took his wallet, shaking it before tucking it into a pocket. Then they beat him. No knives were drawn, just bloody fists.
I kissed my symbol, crawling to a stand. A tooth flew with a splatter of saliva and blood. I was sure it was Snake’s tooth.
The third man, wrinkled of face but definitely not a tottering grandpa stopped the fists with a pointing. Five uniformed men all in brown were heading towards us. The station security staff. Snake wiggled away. The three with blood stained fists left in a hurry, the uniforms following.
I turned. The crowd of my fellow slaves surged. The green dressed women were back, handing out rations. I looked for the hunched shape of my mother in the sea of same faced, same dressed beings. She was there, no longer in the front. I blinked. Mom vanished into the mass of us.
A curly haired woman bent down, proffered goods poking toward me. My hands found flex to wrap around the water pouch and food bar.
“There you go honey.” the lady said. She nudged me toward the crowd. Her skirt was way too short!
In the next moment four more wild Matari came out of a side door. Each dressed as something from the Dark Fables holo-vid. Fierce patterns traced on the faces of some and each had a stick carved with sigils. Mistress said the Matari practiced dark magic with such things. Their eyes all looked, assessing us slaves. But I knew they were not proper masters.
My people lined up to receive the food. One of the Matari, the woman with reddish hair leaned her stick out, pointing to a woman at the front. The wide eyes of the woman met back to the fierce stare. A red tag was unhooked from the Matari belt and offered to the woman.
“Quota” the Matari said. Close words were shared. The woman took the tag and moved toward the side door. It happened then, all at once. The crowd pressing forward. The strange line of Matari passing out each their own colored tags. Some slaves even ignored the food and went up to the Matari, bowing, begging, for a tag. Sometimes a tag was offered, most times the sticks were used as sticks. The word ‘Quota’ rose loud above the din. The unchosen were ushered down a further corridor.
Mistress had warned me against such people. They were rebellious to the truth, infidels. I touched my wooden symbol. Mistress had given it to me even as they pushed us onto the ship. She said to let God choose my path. But which one? Or perhaps none of those?
“Guide me.” I prayed. I took off my sandal. The other sandal was gone and I didn’t want to limp. I tucked it and my ration into my dress pocket even as I inched away from the crowd, backing towards the gate we had been herded through not long ago. My three saviors had left that way. If God put them there to save me, then I had to be for them.
I moved slowly, not looking at the door or the guards. It was like sneaking up on a black fowl, if you looked at them they knew you were coming. In a flash I turned, slipping between the brown uniforms. A shout of “hay!” chased me.
Beyond the doors there was a domed world. Walls of shops selling everything from clothing to parts. Scores of dark people, shoulders held back, heads high, and too many pockets. The Matari people. A guard was moving slowly toward me, his hand beckoning. Another was waving to the attentions of those nearest me. I dared to look one in the eye. She looked down at me with eyes dark as the night sky. Her hair was cropped short. It was just like the Mistress said, that woman must have sinned. I pulled my chestnut braid in close to my neck. No one was aloud to steal it. I ducked away from the woman into the tide of beings.
Weaving in and out put distance between me and the uniforms. I climbed up a container, crouching low. The station trembled beneath me. I knew my mother would be yelping. I didn’t care. A station in space was alive and turning. I knew the tremor was a ship moving, a big one. That was where I wanted to be, on a big ship…
From my vantage the red bandanna man became a beacon. I saw him turning a corner. “Big Red” I named him. I slipped down the container’s side, weaseling my way forward. Big Red turned down another hall and up the auto stairs. I followed, stepping high so my toes wouldn’t get sucked into the floor.
I turned where I saw him turn, stopping short. The dock yawned bearing a ship longer than my Holders barn. It looked like a caterpillar, twice bigger than the nasty rust slug master made us board. Big Red disappeared into the wide door of it. I watched as a lift car came, laden with boxes and two women, one hanging off the back. The floppy hatted guard didn’t even look up at them.
I approached, peering into the dark. Metal bolts and rusty panels were fixed to everything. The guard didn’t move. He was watching a screen in his hand. I stood up straight. If I walked like I belonged, no one would notice me: ten lengths, five lengths, one length…
“Stop, there kid.” Came a sharp voice. Floppy hat man, he was next to me in three strides. I stepped away, tripping against a container. It teetered. Floppy hat grabbed my arm, tugging me away.
“Thieves loose their hands, the lucky ones that is.” He snarled.
“I’m not a thief” I said.
“And I’m not a prince.” He said. “What r’ you doing here mite?” he said. His eyes suddenly scanning the docks before they came back to me. Those eyes were not fierce, but his grip certainly was.
I looked him right in the eye. “Quota” I said.
He laughed like a jack-haw. “Who’s Quota’d you. Where’s your mum.”
“The man with the red bandana.” I said pointing to the ship.
“No, no, no.” He snorted. The two women came back, walking this time. He beckoned them over. “Laursa, Bennish, look, boss sent us a Quota.” He held up my hand. I wiggled it away. He didn’t know how to glower, but I knew I could.
“Careful Jester. She’s a thief scout.”
“I am not a thief!” I said.
“Yeah I looked. There isn’t anyone on the docks. I think she followed the Captain. Now tell me small fry, what do you expect to do for us?”
He stared at me. The one called Bennish gave me a proper squint eye. The hum of dock machines and some distant horn sounded. I had no idea what one does on a ship.
Bennish leaned in. “Bet she fixes nano-coolers”
“Mite box mining maybe?” Jester said.
“Polishing the low knobs. I hate bending down that far.” Laursa said.
They were making fun of me. Each job was fake. I could tell. But I remembered one job for slaves in space. Mistress told me about it once. A job I surly could be qualified to do. I squared my shoulders. “I will herd your fedos.” I said.
I really had never seen a fedo. Mistress said they were like giant slugs. I knew how to herd shep and black fowl. As long as fedo weren’t faster than them I could figure it out. I folded my hands and bowed.
The dock machines hummed. Jester turned, stumbling back to his post. I could hear him snorting, trying desperately to catch his breath. Was he choking? Bennish looked down at me.
“If you’re a real Fedo herder, you’ll know how to use this:” She turned and looked around, grabbing up a staff of copper, thin with a split end going each way in a twist. She poked the fat end at me. I grabbed it. If I looked it I could fake it until I could do it. My hand ran over the twisty end.
“Yes, you will know how to use the khumaak” Laursa said. Jester fell over.
“Take me to your fedos” I said, brandishing the khumaak.
Laursa led the way. Bennish cuffed Jester when he tried to follow.
“But I need to see this skill.” He said.
“No you idiot. You’re on guard. You leave the door you’ll be on half rations.”
“Film-the technique, I must…“ he brandished his data pad.
“Bay 3- camera 34. Just watch it like your suppose to.” Bennish said.
I followed Laursa. There were so many boxes and nets of things secured to the walls. I clutched the khumaak, keeping my hands to myself. We stopped at the door, Laursa’s hand poking the panel. A weak light rose to illuminate my fate. A stench, like the back of a diuretic slaver hound came forth. Bay 3 was mostly empty. A corner had some containers strapped to the wall.
“Here, this room’s full of them. Just show us your stuff and I’ll give you a station coin. You can buy a Quafe or something.” Laursa said.
I don’t really know what a Quafe is but I wasn’t going to tell them. Laursa and Bennish, I knew they weren’t Ladies, but here they were greater than I. “At your command.” I said, and bowed. When I looked up I saw a funny kind of sorrow played at their eyes. They left, closing the door behind them.
I walked into the middle of the bay. Bits of junk were scatted at the edges and more than a few rusty spots bloomed in clusters on the floor and walls. So where were the fedo? They probably were in the net of boxes. I turned the khumaak in my hands as I patrolled to the bay edge. I could really look at the tool now without seeming ignorant. The thin spirally end was flimsy with two of the tubes being flexible and three of them rigid. There was a bracket too, complete with bolts and washers. I stuck a finger in one of the tubes. When I breathed into the end it came out the other.
I wasn’t watching and my bare foot kicked a pile of detritus. It squished with tickling thorns brushing against my ankle. I froze in horror, realizing what I had done. There they were, every pile of rusty trash on floor and wall, was a fedo. And I had kicked one. Hurting the livestock meant a lash. If I killed it, I was sure to get beaten.
The pale lump landed on its back. A round mouth worked in the air as the tiny claw legs waved like a beetles. I reached down to right it and the tiny claws grabbed my hand, pulling it to my fist. Shudders were held back with shear will. I desperately wanted to shake it off but if I threw it, it could die.
“Breath.” I told myself. It wasn’t hurting me. It just prickled with it’s tiny feet. The mouth felt like a gouder’s tongue. Now was the time to learn. I brandished the khumaak, maneuvering the stiff tube ends under the fedo’s body, but it kept slipping through the gaps. If the tube was as wide as my arm I could load the fedo into it, but this was not so.
I set the khumaak down and gripped the fedo by the back. It was cold and solid, like an over ripe daou fruit. A more pungent stink erupted. Clawed tentacles angled up toward my invading hand. I gently squeezed, pealing it off my hand. With a hop I set it down and whipped my other hand away so it could not affix to it. That seemed to work. Maybe the khumaak only guided a group? At least with shep, the crook could catch one.
I patted the fedo’s jelly back. Slowly it began to side away, its little hooked tentacles undulating. I searched through the dim light of the room, making a count with my fingers and toes. With herding, a beast either followed or ran. It was easier if they followed but you had to have their trust. I would earn their trust, one by one. The next fedo eagerly climbed to my proffered hand. I walked it to the far corner of the bay and slid it gently onto the flooring.
“One by one.” I counted off my pinkey finger.
It is impossible to tell time without a sun, but moving the fedo took a long time. There were two hands and a foots worth high on the wall and away from the scaffolding so I just couldn’t reach, even with my khumaak. The rest were in my corner. I even managed to grab the biggest one. I called her Gummy. She was as big as both my feet long. I hummed to her as I pealed her off the wall. she seemed to like it. The fedo didn’t seem to want to stay in my corner though. I broke up my food bar crumbling it on the floor to feed them. I had a hard time poking open the water pouch but I eventually got it to drip and squirt. A sip for me, a puddle for them. Gummy sat in the middle of the puddle.
A yawn slipped out but I stopped it. It was not correct to sleep when a job was expected. I hoped a fedo shepherd didn’t sleep with their stock, they were kind of cold. Maybe if I closed my eyes just a bit. I could hear the masters coming and could stand to attention then?
A tap of foot steps slowed to the door. Laursa and Bennish must be back to check on my skills! I squared my shoulders and looked down. My left hand on my khumaak, my right wrapped around God’s symbol in prayer. Please fedo, please stay in my herd. I will feed you and tend you, and we will journey the stars together!
Gummy brushed against my foot.
The door opened. Giggling laughter echoed through the bay. It was not Laursa or Bennish. A man and a woman entered, holding hands. Even I knew what that meant.
“Selka my soul, the Commander shouldn’t be kept waiting.” The man said
“We have an hour before you undock.” She replied. His vest clinked to the floor.
“I should be on my slasher.” He said.
“Your frigate is fine. I just need five minutes. It will be two weeks before I can touch you again.” She said.
“Yes Captain. Then you’ll have too much of me.” He said
“As if I could ever have too much.” She said.
They were kissing. Lust, one of the seven tribes of sin, unless it was sanctioned by the master. And then no one was suppose know about it and most definitely not interrupt.
A buzzer rang. The two jumped. A voice came over in a fuzz of the speaker system.
“Captain, please report. Commander Berkist is waiting for you.” Jester’s voice sounded.
“Give me that.“ a deeper voice cut in. “I’m coming down to that bay, and you’d better have most of your cloths on.” He said. The com cut off.
The woman and man laughed. She moved in for another kiss but their movement stopped. The man pulled away. I froze. He was looking at me.
“Selka, why are all the fedo in that corner. Is that a child? With your refrigerant splitter?”
“Eh?” she said. “What in the mighty Eldars? Who are you?”
I bowed. “Captain Selka, ma’am. I am your new fedo herder” I said. I stuttered a bit but I think I seemed sure enough.
The metal flooring made great echoes as the Captain tromped toward me. I turned my eyes to her boots, sneaking a peak at her face. It was then that I understood, She was the one, the littlest one who beat on the Snake man. The one God had sent for me to follow. I had thought she was a man.
“What kind of joke? Jester you dumb…“ Selka finished with a whisper.
The man laughed. He squatted down, his eyes starring into mine. I looked at his boots too.
“Fedo, eh? Where are your parents?” he asked.
“Her mom’s on the refugee dock. Did you follow me?” Selka said.
“Yes.” I said.
“Oh what a proper little Ammatar.” The man said as he reached out. I let him pat my head. Captain Selka glowered, showing me her wrathful face.
“Look, you can’t just follow strangers.” She said. The echo of boots in the corridor made everyone freeze.
“Jousul, you have to hide her.”
“Where” he shrugged. Gesturing to the tightly packed net of cargo.
“Well, have her stand behind you. If she doesn’t move the Commander might not notice. Just not by that.” She said as she pointed to my neatly herded fedo. A few were moving from the formation and I bent the khumaak to poke at them so the Captain would know that I know what I am about.
She grabbed me and Jousul, I found myself sandwiched between his butt and the wall.
“Just stay still” she hissed.
The door creaked. The man who entered did not bother to close it.
“Captain Selka.” He barked. Selka sprang to attention.
“Commander Berkist.” She replied.
“I am assuming Captain Jousul has ‘briefed’ you?”
“Ye-No sir. Just tell me where to pick up the ore.” Selka
“Your orders have changed. You are taking this wreathe hauler to Hama, you’re on salvage.”
“Salvage?” Selka looked at Jousul.
“The Eldar fleet is pressing forward and there is a lot of scrap in their wake.”
“Thank you sir!” She said. Selka stepped forward then. Her hands reaching out. Berkist met them with a weird arm to arm grip. It was like a hug that didn’t quite happen. I felt Jousul relax a little. I could finally turn my head.
“You know you deserve a destroyer, but this is the best, and safest I can do. Considering Chief Ellido’s edict. She holds our future foremost.”
“You’ll be at the wedding?” Selka said.
“You put me next to your mother, didn’t you?” Berkist said.
I could see Captain Selka smile.
“Get your crew back on board. You leave in a turn.”
“A turn? I was told we had three days.”
“A turn. The fleet is pressing into Sarum Prime. We’ll be knocking on the Imperial door.”
“Oh, and one more thing, keep tighter collars on your muscle. Station security was threatening to boot us because some yahoos decided to help in the Quota hall.”
“We were just taking out the trash sir.” Selka said.
“Thieves and vagrants, those were his words. Just leave it alone. I already had to listen to an hour about ‘unsanctioned’ fleet ■■■■. Republic are not Thukker. Understood?”
“Captain Jousul, come.”
Jousul trotted to Berkist side.
“Oh and be sure to-“ Berkist began, but he stopped. I could see Selka’s stance stiffen. Berkist pointed. I bowed most humbly.
“Already taken care of sir.” Selka said.
“I don’t know how.” Berkist said. “The boat for the refugee camp un-docked fifteen minutes ago.”
Selka’s face went long with eyes bulging. Her hand shot out, jerking me toward the door. On the dock she peeled the khumaak from my fingers and handed it to Jester. He turned his face down.
Selka must know I am no good. I don’t know fedo. I embarrassed her by being seen. I don’t know space rules. I trotted, silent. Speaking was forbidden now, of that rule I was sure.
Captain Selka tugged me to the refugee’s hall. No one was left, just a man with a mustache sweeping up bits. My mother was gone. Tears leaked to the corners of my eyes. I won’t blink. They would all run then. Tears just got you a backhand.
The place she brought me next had a glass door and carpeted floors. Many people in the brown uniforms walked in and out. Captain Selka spoke with a woman who bent over the counter to look at me.
“What is your name?” she asked.
“Bellia” I said.
The woman typed on her data pad. My hand was lifted to sit on it. It clicked and an image of my hand appeared on the screen at her desk. A stick with a light was shown in my eye. Selka ordered me to stay still and look at it.
“You are being registered” the woman said.
Mom had told me about this. This place must be where I would get sold properly.
We were guided to another room where a dozen people milled.
“Here.” Selka said, pointing to one of the puffy chairs. I proceed to dust the chair off for her. It had been very clean though. I don’t know why she needed me to clean it too.
“No I mean sit in it.” She said. Her hand moved to cover her eyes. She peaked at me through those fingers.
I knew better. I wasn’t supposed to sit in view of a master. Was this a test?
“Just sit, now. Sit!” She said, pushing me into the chair. I sat. The chair squished most pleasantly. My eyes started to close. I willed them open. You can’t fall asleep in front of the masters. I stood up. There was now dirt on the seat where I had been.
“Sit back down” Selka said.
Selka sat next to me and pulled out something from her vest pocket.
“Here, eat this.”
It was a clear packet containing colorful dots, candy. I looked at her face. Was I really suppose to eat? Selka wasn’t even looking at me. She was focused on her data pad, typing furiously. I was starving. If it was alright for me to sit, maybe I could eat? I carefully tore the corner off the package. I slipped the orange one into my mouth and closed my eyes. It was too sweet and a little bit sour. I willed myself to not bite. It would last longer if I didn’t bite it up.
“Captain Selka” a rather official looking man strode up to us, extending his hand. Selka stood but she didn’t shake it.
“I checked. The freedom barge is already underway.” The officer said.
“I know that, idiot. How much will it cost to get her back to her mother.”
“No need to worry. We will take care of her. I just need you to sign here.”
“I want to leave her an endowment.” Selka said. She took out a monies fold, extracting a handful of rectangles.
“How generous.” He said.
Selka lifted a finger to sign the compad. A man walked in from the corner door. The voices in the room quieted.
“There, that’s the Thukker that robbed me. She even has ‘my’ wallet!” the man shouted. It was Snake face again. One of his eyes was blacked and his left arm was in a sling. All eyes went to the captain. I curled down into the chair.
The official took the compad back. Selka had not signed. Her face put on the mask of wrath. Snake pranced forward but he slowed before he got close. Then he looked twice at the chair as he spotted me.
“See too, she has kidnapped my Quota, my ‘ward’.” He pointed. Selka turned her glare to the official, then back to Snake.
“What right do you have to Matari children?” Selka said. The official moved between them.
“Now, now, Mr. Pan is a Gallente talent scout. His benefactor has been quite generous to the orphans fund.” The official said.
Mr. Pan straightened his tie and raised his hand in welcome to the room of onlookers.
“Everyone here has seen ‘Ollies Orphans’, ‘Mighty Mite-matar’, and ‘Little Sashta’s Freedom’. That’s the kind of flicks my clients are doing. With those eyes, this kid is going to be a star. Food, education, toys, She’ll want for nothing.” He said. “A new face of compassion for the Republic.”
His hand reached for mine, flicking my bag of jellies away. I watched them scatter in-between the seats. The sweaty-hot grip was more that a bit too tight, crushing the one jelly I managed to hold onto. At least his smile was clean, though he was missing that tooth.
“You can’t believe him?” Selka looked at the official and across the rest of the room.
“Don’t worry Captain. There are groups that verify such things. We’ll see to the child’s welfare.” The official said.
I could see Selka’s stare; calculating, assessing. Her scary face of wrath was what she offered the room. She grabbed my other hand.
“Quota,” Selka said.
“I know you. Thukker aren’t part of the Republic. Your kind don’t aid a refugee Quota, only your own tribe, living in the Wild Lands. I on the other hand-” Mr. Pan said. But he stopped. Selka had inched more than a bit closer, looking up into his face. He was taller, but at that moment he didn’t seem that way.
“Quota.” Selka repeated. She grabbed Mr. Pan’s hand off of mine and twisted him to the floor.
“God damn Thukker!” He screamed. I am very certain the Captain broke his arm. As certain as I was that Mr. Pan was going to hell for his blaspheming.
Captain Selka pulled me up. She ramed through the fencing of brown clad officials. I had to really trot to keep from falling. I tripped and she pulled me up. My eyes were drooping and fuzzy. I had to shake to open them. The squashed purple jelly slid from my fingers. I reached back as it bounced away. Selka jerked me up again.
“Are you fool enough to stay with that man?” Selka asked, “I can assure you he is all lies.”
“Sorry m’Captain. I stay with you, please? I don’t know, I am so tired.”
“By the Eldars, you have no shoes. And when did you last sleep?”
“When was sundown last?”
“Damn you really are fresh from a planet. There is no day or night in space.” Selka said. She looked back. I could see the guards coming. Selka turned, and picked me up.
No one had carried me since I was three. I felt light, flying like a bezz. I didn’t know if it was right, but I hugged the Captain.
It must have been right, She gripped me tighter.
YC 124 NEWCWC -The Business of Love-
Health and Fitness
The broad shoulders were very nice, but a beard? Sadie Pinster hadn’t really considered a man with a beard. Mr. Mhu, that course Protection Services Officer who lived in her Hive left his facial hair feral, complete with errant crumbs. Still, this Mr. Walther Haut, his beard was precisely groomed and raven dark like his hair. The suit he wore was a Kamie Sutsu, an appropriate quality brand. The shoes, they were Mäki’nen’, the kind her own Executive Director wore. Mr. Haut was either lucky or he knew his corporate culture.
“I see your eyes brightening.” Ms. Kline, the professional connections interviewer said. “Quite a catch isn’t he?”
Sadie quickly narrowed her gaze and pinched her fingers to zoom in on Mr. Houat’s face. “Above his eye, there is a scar.” She said.
“It could be removed. But we suggested he keep it. I find it rather maturing. He is a veteran of services after all.”
“Another admirable quality. Strange though that he won’t remember it?”
“A strict stipulation of his former contract. As a member of a covert ops force, his only option for retirement was a mind wipe. But he has settled into the civilian life program without flaw and we are guiding him in his life wishes: A high energy spouse with a future he could help build.”
“But he will not remember his old life?”
“He retains all his talents. His scheduled medical reviews will guarantee that he remains the Mr. Haut ‘he’ chose to be. We cannot play around with such things.” Kline said.
"He seems too good to be true.” Sadie said.
“Ms. Pinster, I told you I found you a rarity. He is a Director’s package for the Manager’s rate. Our clientèle are of the highest caliber. Do not forget the intense interview process we set you through.”
“I remember. You had me climb a wall.” Sadie said.
“And you tried to do it in heels! But that is not important. You are in respectable health. It is your superior social elegance and aggressive corporate drive set that make you his desirable match.”
“I thought my match would be more like myself.” Sadie said
“So many think so. But if you were both CEO material, then you might end up in his shadow. And don’t get me wrong, you both have a lot in common but we find that a mate who strengthens their partner’s weaknesses to be more advantageous and bonding.”
“My weaknesses?” Sadie snorted, raising her chin.
“As a Senior Manager in Lai Di Distributions, your health; physical, mental, and spiritual are very important. Mr. Haut will sharpen them all.”
“Mind and body health are important.” Sadie said.
“Don’t forget the heart?” Kline said.
Sadie snorted. She spun the three dimensional portrait around again. Beards could be silky. It was a very masculine trait. She brought up the image of herself and scooted it next to him. He would add a dominance to her presence at corporate events. “What does he think of me?”
Ms. Kline, smiled. “As if you should doubt. He immediately demanded a meeting.”
“Demanded? With the five year contract? That is a bit clingy.”
“Ms. Pinster, we are a Marriage service. Not a dating site. Mr. Haut is only interested in a long term. And you said yourself that your Director recommended it. Did she not say it would open up advancement opportunities?”
“He will of course have his own employment?”
“There are no less than three job guarantees upon his transfer to your hive; private trainer, physical therapist, and security officer. All are admirable positions. He said he was leaning toward the physical therapist position with a freelance into the training venue, for flexibility. You have several high-caliber client options in the upper echelon of your home-hive.”
Mrs. Tesku will be first in line I am sure, Sadie thought. “All of those options could pay his half of the expenses.”
“And provide external connections to some very important people indeed.” Kline added.
Sadie viewed the contract again. Her lawyers had reviewed it and assured her it was a solid document protecting her assets. From her climb out of the broken slums to this gilded hive, in her thirty-two years Sadie had no less than five aggressive marriage proposals. Including the still insistent Mr. Mhu. All the proposals, every one was from a wasteful scrub clawing for her advantage.
“I don’t know. A marriage, my career, I just don’t have time…“
“Ms. Pinster, I thought this was why you were doing this. For your career. Trust me. Trust the reviews. Trust your Director. This is our business. We know what we are doing. Mr. Haut will truly strengthen your position in your corporation. His skills can support you all the way up. Just think about it! We all know that behind all great people there is a great pillar of support. This man wants to be that for you.”
Sadie flipped back to the screen where Mr. Haut’s dark eyes stared into hers. A shiver sparked down her spine and into her belly. It had been long since she had watched a romance holo-vid. Such irrationality had been pounded into submission with ever glance back at her poor mother, saddled with a trifling imbecile and five screaming brats.
Still, those eyes. Beards could be soft.
“Don’t forget the guarantee.” Ms. Kline said.
“Fine, fine I will sign up for the trial!” Sadie Said.
“We are recording now. Three month check-in. How are we getting on with the Marrage?” Kline asked Sadie.
“Mr. Haut is more than adequate.” Sadie said.
“Surely that is not all you have to say.”
Sadie felt herself blush. There were things one didn’t say in contract fulfillment interviews. How every morning she would wake up to a pressed suit and energizing breakfast. Every sixteen hour day she would come home to a perfect meal, bath, and full massage- with sex. Being alone for so long, such holo-vid fantasies had been only that, a base need of a body. Something the weak succumb to saddling them to a life of poverty and regret. But Sadie, she had built status and control. Walther was her earnings.
“At our first office party we were invited by the Associate VP and his wife to the club for jorufu. And we are to go skyriding with my Director and her husband next week.”
“Oh how adventurous.” Kline said.
“At the club, Walther was perfect.”
“My Associate VP mentioned the expansion and a need for a new Junior Director.” Sadie said.
“More than adequate indeed.”
“Did Walther say anything about me?”
“You know these interview are confidential. But you have no need to worry. Now I understand it is your birthday?”
“Any plans for the day?”
Sadie smiled. It seemed infectious because Kline too smiled. The interview concluded and Sadie sighed as the rest of the service fee was deducted from her account. Still, she was more than satisfied. Her corporate advancement would come soon now.
Walther followed her through the shop door, his arms laden with packages.
“Sadie, you never told me why you said yes.” he said.
“Why did you?” Sadie asked. She heard Wather’s foot steps halt. She turned and he moved closer. His eyes met to hers, intense, boring into her. She held them.
“There was a powerful elegance about your story. And when I met you, I felt its truth, its energy in you. You will succeed in what ever you do. I knew that I could thrive if I basked in that radiance.”
Sadie breathed out. She had not realized she had been holding her breath. Why had she picked him? Because he looked the part, because her boss recommended the service, because of the guarantee, because he could help her advance, because of the shoe brand he chose. Maybe there was a loneliness? But she had not known then that she was lonely.
He shifted her birthday purchases to one arm and gently brushed her chin. She reached up caressing his beard.
“Now you?” he said, offering his coy eyebrow raise.
“I said yes because I liked your beard.” She said with a laugh. His smile echoed into her.
She stepped out into the walk and he took two deep steps that set him at her side.
They were nearing the Planetary Vehicle garage to check out their rental. They could have taken the public but she liked having Walther drive.
Walther put an arm around her waste twisting her around to a service closet. She almost tripped. He tried the handle.
“What are you doing? Our rental is that way.” She said
“Sadie, there is someone following us. Someones’”
“What? This is a safe mall.”
“Apparently not.” He said. The service closet was locked. He directed her forward. Two men were there, baring their way. Each dressed neat enough. They wouldn’t have let them in the establishment if they weren’t. But they had put on masks.
“Credits, kind people? A token?”
Sadie gasped. She glanced at the security cameras.
“Oh but the security personal are busy elsewhere.” The man said.
“You had best move along anyway.” Walther said. His voice forceful.
“Walther, I’ll just give them the credits.” Sadie said as she inched back the way they came. The space behind them was clear. She would slide out of her heels and run. Walther had teased her and prepared her for just this event. She would never mock his teachings again. Give them what they wanted and run.
“Sadie, stop! There are three more behind us.” Walther said. “These people aren’t after your credits.”
An icy chuckle and hawing of laughter poked around the corner. Three more loosely dressed thugs came around the corner behind them. Two of them drew knives, if they could be called so. Each blade was as long as the thigh bone they were drawn from. The white sheen of the knives told of a fiber-polymer ceramic material. No metal detector would have noticed them. The man in the middle, the voice, reached into his chest coat and drew a gun.
“I thought maybe the lady would like to go for a ride?” he said.
“No.” Sadie whispered.
Walther let the packages drop to his feet, scattered. He snatched the purse from Sadie’s hands, pushing her behind him into a space where a street cycle was parked between a car and the wall. He was her shield, but there was no escape.
“Can’t we come to some sort of compromise gentlemen?” Walther said as he opened the purse.
The men laughed.
In one smooth movement Walther launched a package with his foot. Sadie’s new crystal vase shattered square across the gunman’s jaw. Staggering, Walther was on him, his hand neatly twisting the gun mans arm. The gun tapped to the concrete, sliding away. Walter shifted his weight rolling the gun man into the sword thug to his left while simultaneously gut kicking the swordsman to the right. The right man quickly recovered, advancing with raised sword even as Walther moved in on him.
“No” Sadie screamed as the blade came down over Walther, but somehow he twisted, rising, the second swordsman’s blade arm was bound in the straps of her purse. With the next pull of bodies, Sadie heard a pop and a crack. The man squealed as Walther drove him to the ground, bouncing his head on the concrete.
“Stay back Love.” Walther said. The left swordsman and gunman were already moving back at him.
“Who’s he protecting now?” One of the first two men said.
“Poor choice for him.” The other one added. Knives in hand, the first two thugs advanced, on her.
Sadie screamed. Moving she put the street bike between her and them.
“Where do you think your going?” One grabbed her wrist. Sadie took a breath. Walther had been teaching her when she worked on her physical fitness. Turning her wrist to the side and making a fist, Sadie grabbed onto that fist with her other hand. Twisting her body, Sadie wrenched it free at the point where her assailants thumb and finger wrapped.
“It actuality worked!” she said.
“Yeah this’ll work too.” The man swished his knife at her. One was coming at her from each side, circling around the bike. Sadie stepped back against the planetary vehicle, keeping her hands in tight. She saw Walther slide behind the man on the outside. The villain’s knees buckled even as his face was slammed into the bike bar. Vaulting over the bike, Walter came in with his elbow to the knife swisher, careening them both into the side of the vehicle.
The left sword thug was back, on the other side of the bike now. Blood trickled from a gash on Walthers arm. Walther’s eyes were wide, feral. A more fierce countenance than any holo-vid could ever show. Sadie saw the swordsman glance at his fallen comrades. Walther leaned down, wrapped one hand around the bike handle, the other the seat frame. Powered street bikes were not light but he lifted it as if it were a manual, thrusting it at the swordsman. The bike crashed into him. The ceramic blade made a tinkling sound as it tapped on the ground.
“Stop there!” a voice barked. The gun man alone remained. He now stood, ten feet away. The weapon leveled.
“Don’t hurt him.” Sadie cried.
“I’ll get on the ground.” Walter said. He put one knee down. Sadie saw Walther’s hand drop to her abandoned stiletto heel. In a swoop the stiletto went flying. A perfect spin landed it square in the gunmans eye. Walther was close behind it, flawless in a motion of choreographic carnage. The gun popped out a shot. The gunman’s arms were pinned as he was forced to the back wall. Sadie saw spittle and breath fly as Walther, clearly the bigger man, squeezed the breath out of him. A shift of the grip and a sharp bob of the head left the man limp. Walther released him to the floor.
Walter stepped back, tugging at the bottom of his shirt and smoothing it into place.
“Sadie, my darling, are you alright?” Walther said. Sadie breathed. Her lower lip trembled as Walther embraced her. His hands smoothing the wrinkles on her suit and rubbing her hands.
“You saved me. How did you do this?”
“I am not sure, but the doctors said I would retain my training, my instincts. I always knew this was in there. I must have been some operative. This is almost inhuman. Like a holo-vid.”
“Yes, inhuman.” Sadie said.
Three men lay, their blood splashed on walls and leaking a slow trickle down the slope. The forth was surely dead with the poly-knife slice to the throat. The fifth man still wriggled underneath the upturned cycle. He squeaked in pain but silenced as Walther looked in his direction.
“Your hurt.” Sadie said, touching the slice in his sleeve, red painting her fingers. There was also a growing dark spot on his thigh. Walther probed his leg wound. Sadie noticed that he did not wince.
“Here’s the bullet. Just a small hole.” Then he flicked the sliced flap of his jacket and slid out of it. The worried brow made Sadie’s heart sink.
“Come, I will get you to the hospital.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“I am not sure if I can save my jacket.”
The police took a full account. Sadie had pushed Walther toward the hospital but he refused. “Small scratches.” He said. The on-sight medic did a scan and said there was no major artery damage. Walther insisted that could sew it up himself with the medical kit at home and her assistance. It was a relief. Emergency hospitals were expensive. Even with his injuries, Walther all but carried Sadie up to their apartment.
Sadie went to get the medical kit. Next to the tub she saw the evening enjoyment displayed. Walther must have set it into place even as they walked out the door for shopping. A tray set for tea with a glass bowl domed over a trio of sweet-spiced crisps. The kind she really liked.
“What is this?” she said as she touched the overturned tea cup. It was not her usual white teacup. This one was cobalt blue traced with a pair of rising white birds, their plumes fanned out behind them. The white bird pair was a gift of unity.
“Oh this is my birthday present, from you?” she lifted the cup to hold. It was beautiful. She had wanted such a set for guests, and herself. Underneath the cup there was a single chocolate. A decadence beyond means. Real chocolate cost a small fortune. It had to be a synthetic like Protein Delicacies, a fabrication. But the smell was perfect.
“It is real.” He said over her shoulder. She gasped.
“This is too much?”
“The tea set is your gift, from me. The chocolate was a bonus surprise. One of my clients gave it to me as a tip.”
“Mrs. Tesku, I‘ll bet”
“She is jealous of you.”
“Should I be jealous of her?” Sadie said. Walther set his arm to her waist. She laughed, turning to his coy smile. He nuzzled her neck. She kissed him deeply, as she learned that he liked, as she now liked.
She leaned in whispering into his ear, “These kinds of chocolates come in a box of ten.”
He shifted, whispering into her ear, “I am auctioning off the other nine individuality, on Kitt-Vy. Each one already has at least three bids.”
She kissed him again, even more passionately.
Only three days and the cut was was almost invisible. Sadie had never sewn human flesh before but Wather assured her that with the numbing agent it did not hurt and that her skill with the needle was impressive.
“I wish I could come in late today.” She said.
“Did you sleep better my love? With the tea?“
“Much better. I just need more of this all day.” Sadie said as she snuggled in to Walther. His hand moved around her belly, pulling her in tight.
“If I save your life too often, you’ll want to be keeping me in your office closet.”
“Would that be so bad? We would have lunch together everyday.” she nuzzled him. He cupped her cheek. His eyes went from wide, excited to that depth that meant he was disappointed. Then he looked away.
“Darling, I need to get your things ready. You already have that lunch meeting.”
“Phoo.” Sadie puffed into her pillow as she rolled over, brushing open her com schedule. The alert had popped up last night. Not a meeting she had scheduled. The Director’s mark was next to the confirmation.
“Just a client schmooze. Another VIP exporter. Blue suit?”
“Blue suit” Walther echoed.
“Oh tomorrow, can you make me those pancakes?”
“Of course. Unless you want them for dinner?” Walther said.
Sadie started to put up her hair. Walther hummed a snappy revelry.
“Sadie, do you remember when I first made you pancakes?”
“Yes. You made one with the spatula and then started flipping the rest with crazy juggling. I was sure you were going to make a mess but you caught ever single one.”
“I didn’t know I could do that too. The fight, it felt like that.” Walther said.
“You are feeling OK aren’t you?” Sadie asked.
“Yes, I did talk to my doctor. I am fine. I will go in to work today.” Walther said.
“And I will not stay at work too late.” Sadie said.
There were three restaurants that her office took clientèle, Kin Tsume, Uskomaton, and the Miel-ikuvituksellinen, more commonly known as the Miel. Sadie was to meet the client at the Miel, the more exclusive of the options.
The waiter guided her to the private corporate room. A uniformed man sat propped at the table.
“Officer Mhu?” she greeted him. Sadie glanced around. There was no one else. She looked at the client list again.
“Ah Sadie Pinster, this is correct. The clients you were suppose to meet are not real. We had your boss arrange this. I need to speak to you.”
“To me? This is highly unconventional. I will need my lawyer.”
“Sadie, we are trying to protect you. That Mall incident must have been very frighting.”
“I assure you that with Walther I am very protected.”
“Yes. Congrats on your marriage by the way.” Mhu winked. “I had always considered that you were just a lesbian, but I guess you have other interest.”
Sadie took her com and messaged her boss. The Director responded immediately with a confirmation. Sadie took a seat at the tables far end.
I’ve taken the luxury of ordering a starter. I have never had real Ickarian clams before, or wagu. Do you know what they do for those pampered live stock? If only I could have their beer ration.”
She directed the waitress to bring her tea and three sushi.
“Now, Officer Mhu, how can we help you.” Sadie said.
“Right. You know, we might never have caught on. This will be a great opportunity for you.”
“Your beu, he is not what he seems.”
Sadie stiffened. She knew this. The matching business had made sure she was sufficiently informed about Walthers covert past. Maybe Officer Mhu would be getting a visit from the Caldari State to clear this up. She smiled her best smile. “Oh do you know something?” She said.
“Because a man doesn’t just pick up a cycle and toss it. No matter how much adrenalin is in him. Not a normal man anyway.”
“Walther saved my life.“
“That he did. Those punks were the real deal, complete with Guristas pirate links. We traced their leader to at least three other kidnappings.”
“So you want to offer Walther a reward?”
“What are you after?”
“Walther has been making acquisitions: food, supplies, small arms.”
“You are spying on us? You will of course have a warrant?”
Mhu flicked out the data sheet from his com to her com. The Lai Dai Protection Service logo pipped at the top. The document was official.
“He does our shopping. Preparing for dangerous times is very patriotic. What if the Gallente invade?” Sadie said.
“He’s a clone.”
Sadie froze, mid sip.
“I didn’t know, but being a clone, that is not a problem.”
“It is if your this kind of clone.”
“And what kind of clone is that?” she asked.
“He might not even know. We think your matching service is a racket, a little mind programing on a used specimen, get money from you and an income from his savings. In five years he dies. They make him disappear, or find him a new body. Has he been acting funny since that day? We suspect he found out when we found out.”
“What is he then?”
“Your Walther is a warclone.”
“He is not. Those savage things are built for violence only.”
“Indeed. A perfect combatant. Very dangerous. Very illegal.”
“But my Walther, he makes pancakes.”
“Ask him. What he is doing with his extra money, the chocolate money?”
Sadie looked down at the Lai Dai warrant again. It couldn’t be real.
“These warclones, they do things a certain way. They never drop things. They move very fast, deliberate. You said he makes pancakes? What about fried eggs? I’ll bet he doesn’t use a spatula to flip them.” Mhu said as he speared his wagu fillet, nibbling on it like a lollypop. “He’s dangerous, capable of eliminating your corporate echelon. He might even be a plant for industrial sabotage.”
“To fully investigate this matching company we need the…oh, my pudding has arrived.“ Mhu looked disappointed at the tiny parfait cup, barely a spoon full. He grabbed instead his last lump of rice dotted in long limbed roe. Mhu started to speak again before he finished chewing. “We need proof. We need the clone. But capturing him will be dangerous too. These things, they are always alert. He could savage your hive if cornered.”
Sadie sipped her tea. It was cold.
“We think he is leaving tonight. He will lie, try to take you with him. He might even kidnap you if you refuse so tell him you will go. I will call you using your boss’s com. If we know where he will be we can set a trap, neutralize him, safely.”
“I don’t think-“
“Correct, you don’t need to think. The Protection Service will handle the details. Your reputation and loyalty to Lai Dai are in question Sadie.”
Sadie clutched her tea cup.
“Did you know his entire mind is in a tiny neuro-interface socket grown into the clone head?” the Mhu said, brandishing the tiny parfait cup. “He’s a computer. A warclone’s biological brain is enhanced for instincts, senses, and body control only.” Mhu slurped the contents of the parfait. “Don’t you worry. We’ll get back most of your contract money. Maybe next time you’ll spend it on a real man.”
Sadie thumbed the knob. It read her DNA and beeped to open. Walther stood, looking at one of the vidscreen windows. It was showing pictures of the sea coast of Enkio.
“My love?” she said. The words felt clay even as she said them.
“You are home early. That is good.”
“I told you I was coming home early.” Sadie said. “Is something wrong?” she said, her words overlapping his same question. It brought a tease of a smile to the corner of his mouth. He moved forward to hug her. He moved to close the door. Sadie watched it click behind her.
“Sadie, sit. Let me get your tea. How was your day?”
“It was fine.” Sadie felt herself chirp out. She had spent the rest of the day barely handling things. The Director visited her. They did not talk about much.
She couldn’t sit. A scattering of boxes, rapid service deliveries were folded in the corner. She moved to the table to look at the ledgers: rations, knives, cording, flashlights, General Soluki’s survival tool. A pair of neatly folded towels, one dark blue, and one light blue draped over a chair.
“You remember the fight?” Walther asked.
“How could I forget?” Sadie said.
“Sadie, I did not go to my doctor.” He said.
“My memories, some of them, I remember things.”
Sadie stiffened. What would he say? He was suppose to lie.
“I threw a bike. I took a bullet. The slash on my arm is gone, healed. I looked. There is this funny test; I cut myself, just a tiny bit. It healed even as I watched. There are nanites in my blood. Sadie, I am not normal.”
“I do not know. You are my husband.”
“Sadie, my memories from before, I am a clone.”
“That is an uncommon thing, but not unusual. If you died, and you had a backup memory.”
“Sadie, I am a warclone. The highly illegal ones.”
“That is preposterous.” She said.
“You hesitated. Did you know?”
“How did you know? Have you always known?” Walther’s face stiffened into a flat mask.
He moved fast. She tried to turn away but he was there. His hands a vice on her shoulders.
“Am I some kind of experiment?”
“I didn’t know. Walther, you saved my life.”
“I am sorry.” Walther released her. “I just don’t know. Did I hurt you? These hands.“ he backed away. “There are security tapes of the fight. I watched them. My moves, they were holo-vid perfect. Someone who knows warclones will know what I am. They will come for me. Sadie, I need to leave. If they find out you know too… We need to leave.”
“This is preposterous. Surely a good lawyer can help.” she said calmly. Too calmly.
“Sadie, this body can surpass a dozen mortal guards to throttle my target. Even in death I will rise again to continue my work. The State sees only the dangers. My ‘kind’, are very much illegal.”
“Where can we go?”
“There are enclaves for people like me. I made a contact. They can get us to a holding colony in the Amarr Empire.”
“Hay, I was offered asylum by a Gurrista operative right away.”
“I just thought the Amarr colony would be more comfortable for you.”
Walther passed the light blue towel to her. Why was it scented in lavendula? Sadie took in the smell.
“You can stay. But I thought…I hoped.” Walther said. “I will worry about you always. This won’t be good for your career. I can make good money with them. I can take care of you.”
Sadie looked down. He came and cupped her chin.
“I…“ she stuttered. She couldn’t meet his eye. Her body stiffened in his embrace. He let go of her but she looked up, and those eyes held her still. Why?
“Please sit. Let me make you one last dinner. Pancakes? Then I need to go. The train leaves for Enkio in two hours. I need to be on it.” Walther said.
Sadie sat. She listened to the sound of the cutting board, the boil of the water, the smell of the spices as they toasted. There were two travel pacs. The smaller one was the Yuna-tec hiker brand. Not the red one she had wanted, but a conservative black. There was everything in it for a woman’s needs. For her needs. Walther’s com pad lay accessible. She opened it and saw the Enkio ticket purchase on his account. All the spendings were on his account.
Her com toned. The Director logo flashed across the front. It would be Officer Mhu, of this she was sure. Sadie picked up her com. Walther started to hum.
YC 124 NEWCWC -Perfect Man-
Tallia looked at the vid screen view of the cell. A magnetized bucket sat in the corner. A tray of food. An empty pouch of water. There was a bed. There was a seat and table protruding from the wall. A man knelt in the corner, facing the wall. The metal flooring his chosen surface. He wore a set of blaze orange prisoner shorts. Nothing else dressed his wide shoulders. His dark hair draped long, twisted neatly into a braid and left to hang over one of the shoulders. Kessa the Gallente mission lead and Timeo the lead intelligence for this case looked over Tallia’s shoulder.
“For shame on you people! Why is he dressed like that?” Tallia said.
“He is a risk.” Timeo said.
“You said he was a slave. Why is he even imprisoned?” Tallia said
“He tore up the first set of clothing we gave him.” Timeo said.
“I believe it is called rent, rending, to rend ones clothing. I think it is a religious thing?” Kessa added.
“A sign of the devout.” Tallia said.
“He kept saying something about unholy threads.” Timeo said.
“Don’t you have some Amarrian garb?” Tallia asked.
“There was something in the lost and found just the other day, a jacket?” Kessa said.
“But should we give it to him? He’s still a risk.” Timeo replied
“Why do you keep saying that?” Tallia asked.
“What Timeo means is that this man is a suicide risk. He won’t touch the food we offer. He doesn’t speak, except to ask for forgiveness to the wall and to beg to be returned to the sanctuary, bowing again to the wall. He won’t even look us in the eye. I am not sure if he is terrified or brain mushed or what.”
“I even slapped him up a bit. Nothing.” Timeo said.
“You what?” Tallia said.
“I was thinking I could snap him out of it.”
“You were just being rude Timeo.” The security ops officer, Pheosa said. The snip in her voice was not to be missed.
“I think he is just jealous. All the men seem uncomfortable around him.” Kessa said as she crossed her arms.
“As if!” Timeo barked.
Tallia shook her head. She suspected that Timeo had been trying to woo Pheosa, as he had tried with most of the women on the station, herself included. Neat as he was in his uniform, he had garnered an ill reputation. Tallia did not care for his presence.
There was movement in the cell. The prisoner shifted.
“What is his medical profile?” Tallia asked.
“There is no Vitoc if thats what you mean. No other drugs, just residual vitamins.” Pheosa said.
“Obviously brain mushed. I haven’t seen such a strong devotion to that Amarrian filth since that time that Kameira guy was guts out dying with a smile. But this guy is not a soldier. That is for sure.” Timeo said.
“Why bring in me?” What do you expect to happen with me?” Tallia said.
“I have a hunch that he might respond to you.” Kessa said.
“Because you are Amarrian.” Timeo said.
“A pureblood right? In blood line?” Kessa said.
“I am-mostly. But Officer Kessa, I am the station accountant, a secretary. Not an interrogator or social worker. I type and crunch numbers. Do you want me to do his taxes?”
“Please. He has been like this for three days. We are desperate to help him. We will be right by your side.” Pheosa said.
The camera in the cell trained to the sided of the mans face. Soft stubble shadowed on his cheeks. He had the most beautiful face, still, eyes closed. Those eyes cracked open just a bit. Tallia could see the deep sorrow crinkling to the edges of his lips.
“He will need to put on a robe.” Tallia said even as she felt herself blush. She was a modest woman. Gallente acquaintances thought her prudish. She did not care for their open ways.
“We will try to find him something.” Kessa said.
“So what should I do?” Tallia said.
They entered the cell. Tallia could hear the man breath out, almost a sigh. She was met to a light smell of stala berries, and was that a hint of chocolate? She caught Pheosa taking in a deep breath as well. Timeo stiffened.
In the next moment the man lifted his head. Turning, he appeared to float to a stand. A shallow glance set those eyes to Tallia’s face. Pheosa jumped. Timeo stepped quickly forward, barring the space between the man and Tallia. His baton drawn.
“Stay back.” Timeo barked.
“Ma’Lady,” the man said, his voice a deep croon. In the next instant he was bowed again, low. His eyes looking just below her own eyes, not meeting them but ready to respond to them. Tallia knew this act. It was what was demanded of them in the presence of a holder, them being a Matari slave. Tallia looked away.
“Please don’t do that.” She said.
“Ma’ Lady?” he said.
“Just stand please.” Tallia said.
“As you wish.” The man said. And he straightened though he still did not meet her eyes. Tallia shuddered. She was born on Amarr Prime, pure in blood but her family was an accountant family by trade, commoners. Yet all Amarrians know how it is suppose to be, dealing with a slave. Tallia had left because her Lord Holder was a cruel man and she had helped a family to escape his ownership through the Secret Starrway. But covert operation was not her skill. Her treason was discovered and the Starrway had to get her out as well. Only by the stayed hand of a capsuleer did she live free. There was a bounty still unclaimed. Not wanting to forsake her Empress she had been denied asylum. Tallia was left in this Gallente station in the corner of nowhere to live. Her mother, father, and siblings did not even know she was alive. She dared not contact them. It was safer for them, and her. Another Starrway operative looked in on them from time to time. They were said to be well though sad.
Timeo puffed up. “See, that wasn’t too hard. I knew you could talk.” He said.
“Shh.” Pheosa hushed him and pulled him aside while urging Tallia forward.
“Hi, my name is Tallia. What is your name?” she said as she offered the man the coat pulled from the lost and found box. His hands claimed the coat edge with a grip secure but soft as a child’s. He stepped back into his corner, clutching the jacket as if it could cover him all folded. It surely did not.
“I am called Caber, Lady Tallia.” He said. His words trembled but the depth of their pitch sounded like a smooth cafe’ from his throat.
“Caber, that is good. Are you hungry? Would you like to eat?”
“As My Lady wishes.”
“No, I am asking you. What do you want?” Tallia said smoothly. Caber stared blankly. Tallia gestured to the food tray. He looked to the food tray on the table and back to her. Still clutching the robe he picked up the tray. He kept glancing to her and then around the room, lingering on Timeo.
“See, he is a zombie.” Timeo said. He stepped forward and patted a hand to Caber’s face. The tap turned to a teasing slap. Caber did not react.
“Timeo!” Pheosa said.
“I was just showing Tallia-”
“How much of an ass you are!” Pheosa said as she shoved him. Tallia too glowered at Timeo.
“Caber, the next time someone does that to you, you slap him back. You hear!” Tallia said maneuvering herself in between the hims. Caber’s eyes widened. He looked down at his free hand as if he had never seen it before.
“Is the food not to your liking?” Tallia said kindly.
“It is fine.” Caber said. Tallia could see something was not. Balancing the tray on his arm, Caber gripped the spoon, and poked the food. His eyes kept darting from her to the plate.
Pheosa set a hand to Tallia’s shoulder. “I have seen it before. Slaves are not to eat in the presence of a Holder, or even a freeman.” She said. “You might have to tell him to dress too.”
Tallia looked away. She had forgotten such etiquette. That is how it was in the
Empire. Caber probably wouldn’t even sit in her presence.
“Yes, of course.” Tallia said.
“It is why we don’t have too many Amarrian looking personal here to serve the intake of our rescue services.” Pheosa said.
“Caber, you should eat that later then. But eat.” Tallia said.
“Yes Ma’ Lady Tallia.”
“But please put the jacket on. Now.”
“As Ma’Lady commands.” Caber said. He set the food down. Before she could look back to him he had spun neatly into the jacket. The sleeves pulled tight over his biceps but when buttoned, it covered his chest, mostly. Tallia still knew it was there though, that chest. Not a tenth of the soldiers on this station had shoulders like this man. The breeze of berries and chocolate wafted again. Where in the Empire could one get that scent?
“Ask him who he works for, who his master is?” Timeo said.
“Yes, right. Who is your master Caber?”
“I serve only the will of God.” Caber said with the first certainty Tallia had heard in his voice of yet. Standing, the man was easily a head taller than Timeo.
“Oh, of course God!” Timeo snuffed. Tallia cringed. The Gallente were accepting of all cultures and religions but half of their bravado was a guise. The critiquing of anything they did not believe in was harsh and isolating. Tallia herself was a devout believer, though few saw her practice. Her alter was kept secret in her quarters. The station cathedral was a service closet shared by many faiths. There were only three other Amarrians working on the station. None came to the holo-vid services.
“God is kind and wise.” Tallia pushed her voice out. Timeo raised a brow to her, his eyes rolled.
“Yeah Timeo, thou art a heathen with thy heretical ways.” Pheosa said as she herded Timeo to the door way and out.
Tallia relaxed then. But just for a moment. She realized they were alone, she and Caber. And this made her very uncomfortable.
“Lady Tallia, if I may beg a question?” Caber said.
“Ask what you wish.” Tallia said.
“You are not a Holder. Are you?”
“No.” She said. “I am of a common house.” Tallia could see him shift his stance, he too seemed to relax in the shoulders.
“Ask your next question then. I see you have one.” She said, for she could see his eyes looking just so.
“Are you my new handler?” Caber said.
“No. Nobody is going to handle you anymore. You are free. I am a friend.”
She saw his jaw tremble then. A clear tear leaked from his eye and he turned away, back to the wall.
“How can this be? I wished only… what have I done?” he stuttered. Caber gripped the sides of the jacket, pulling them taught, then wringing his hands. A wale began.
“What have you done?” Pheosa said as she returned.
“What have I done? I just told him he was free. Caber, what is wrong?” Tallia said.
“To be banished. I thought to highly of myself. Pride. I thought when my Lady asked…at the hope of the incarnate, I considered that I could be of use always.”
“No, no, no.” Tallia said slow and calming. As if she were talking to a child. She half expected this man to swipe the tray and pound the wall but he only moved to his corner. The words he spoke were of the old language. Tallia recognized it as the prayer of desperation.
“Please, just tell me what is wrong?” Tallia asked.
“What hell hath I earned for my imperfect act! I have been forsaken. Abandoned.”
The prison door beeped. Kessa entered, followed closely by a refined figure of a woman. Her golden hair bound up in braids, woven into loops behind her head and covered with a translucent veil. Her garb modest in cut but rich in quality. She was Lady Elliana. Tallia had seen her on the occasion. The Lady would pass through the station on her business. Once she offered Holy service as was the responsibility of a devout Holder, but only the heathen spectators came to gauk. Lady Elliana did not offer such an event again. Her story was half told. Elliana was under a banishment of sorts. If she would but return and accept the will of her parent and her greater Lord Holder she would be welcomed back as a Holder-Apparent, her living mother’s only heir. To be Lady over a thousand slaves and have dominion of her own palace. This fact she does not refute. She is no traitor to her Empire. Her reasons for staying her claim are her secrets to keep.
Elliana’s presence was palpable. Pheosa gave her space. Tallia bowed. Caber turned from the wall. His wail, stilled.
The grace that befit his first rise now flowed from him again as he sank to the floor before the great Lady. Tallia watched as Elliana too, breathed in deeply. Her eyes closing, and then opening, changing from surprise to a mask of stern reprimand.
“What do I see before me?” She said.
“My Lady forgive my despair for my weakness hath overwhelmed.”
“What is thy sin?”
“I expressed a vainglory. My Lady Holder was pleased. It was asked of me what I would want for reward. I said my wish: to follow her where ever she went, to serve to the end of my existence, even onto the stars. She arranged for my wish. But I think now- I know now that I only wanted to see the stars. It was my vanity to think I could be of use to her onto the Celestial realm. I had fallen to sleep. I have woke to this hell. Please, I wish only to return to the sanctuary.”
“I feel your gravity. Rise. Your penance shall be forthcoming.” Elliana said offering a quick gesture of hand.
Caber rose. Though his hight dwarfed her, Lady Elliana was only enhanced by his presence. Tallia shrived.
“You may look upon me.” Elliana said.
“As you wish.” Caber’s gaze turned up.
“Tell me, Caber, was it? What do you do?”
“Anything thou ask.”
“Your divine purpose, and trained skills?”
“I have been specialized in the art of reflexology, ma’Lady.”
“I see. Caber you are to eat. Is that what they are feeding you?”
“Yes ma’Lady. Though I have fasted in my sin.”
“Give that here. I will see that you get a proper meal and I will see to your freshening.”
“Yes ma’Lady.” Caber said as he offered the food tray, not to lady Elliana, and not to Tallia, but to Kessa. Kessa took the tray but not before rolling her eyes.
Elliana took another visible breath. Tallia followed suit. Caber’s cologne of berries and chocolate seemed enhanced with an echo of shaved habal-wood incense. Elliana set her hand to Tallia’s shoulder. “Come, all of you, out. Now.”
Timeo stood viewing the cameras, just outside the door. Lady Elliana pointed at him. “You there, get him a vegetarian meal. Vegan if you have it.” She said. “And see to his cleansing right away.”
“Oh you are a bossy one. Cleanse him? I will get my sponge.” Timeo said.
“She means get him to the showers.” Kessa said. Everyone flooded out into the small observation room. Sandwiches and a chill box of Quafe had appeared. Three new faces tended the cameras. Tallia had not realized that her performance was being recorded.
“You are all idiots. Why would you kidnap such a slave?” Elliana said.
“Kidnap? What is he?” Kessa said.
“How shall I explain it. A marriage for a Holder woman is often unsatisfying.”
“So he is a concubine?” Kessa said.
“Of a sorts. He is a reflexologist. He tends only to the pedites.”
“Oh, a Royal foot massager.” Pheosa said
“He should be turned over to the Federation interrogator.” Timeo said.
“No.” Tallia said in unison with Pheosa. The Gallente woman shared a smile.
“What do you expect an interrogator should gleen?” Ellliana said “You’ve captured a Holder’s reflexologist. You might as well have annexed a foot stool.”
“A foot stool hears a lot” Timeo said.
“But understands nothing.” Elliana added
“And furniture does not really speak. So yeah, I get it.” Pheosa said.
“He can talk.” Timeo growled.
“But he won’t. And he likely understands none of what he has heard. With certainty he will be skilled in the recite of prose and poetry. It is likely he has the voice of a şarkı sözü.”
“Şark-i Su-zuu?” Pheosa asked.
“The sark, a delicate creature that makes the most beautiful sounds.” Tallia said.
“If he can sing, he can mimic.” Timeo said.
“More importantly, where do we get that Amarrian cologne. I seriously want it for my husband.” One of the new guards said.
“I want to sell it to her husband and make my fortune.” Another guard said.
“Please Lady Elliana. What is that brand so that we can find it? If they have an incenses?” Tallia asked.
“That is not a cologne. It is his natural musk.”
The room went silent. All heads turned to the video screen where Caber sat, in quiet prayer. Tallia knew what muscles lay beneath the jacket that was just a hair to small.
“So he naturally smells like chocolate, and berries?” Tallia said.
“For me it’s cookies and lavender.” Pheosa said.
“And shaved habal-wood. He started to smell like that when we were last in there.” Tallia added.
“What is he?” Timeo said. “I have never seen this kind of slave before. Never heard of such a thing.” Everyone looked to Elliana. She only looked at the video screen.
“You have all heard of the Kameira program?” Elliana said.
“The creepy Amarrian slave soldiers? I knew he gave me the willies.” Timeo said.
“I remember that soldier we found at the wreck of that frigate we brought down. Crawling, half dead.” Kessa said.
“His guts were on the ground yet he still got up and squeezed the life out of Private Willard before my bullet put him down.” Pheosa said.
“He didn’t even have on a pressure suit.” Kessa said
Pheosa and Timeo shivered.
“The program, its roots were the testing and enhancement of the body with selective breeding, right?” Tallia asked.
“It started with the Brutar Matari. A savage program.” Pheosa said.
“The Elite Slave program.” Kessa added.
“That man is one of them, an Elite. Bred for select characteristics. Raised in strict zealotry for absolute obedience.“ Elliana said.
“And to be pleasing to a woman” Pheosa said.
“That he is.” Someone replied. The room burst with giggles.
“Don’t be crass.” Tallia scolded. There were more guards now. At least five more had entered. One of them passed around the Quafe and folded sandwich pockets. Kessa pushed a sandwich into Tallia’s hand.
“Why haven’t we heard of such a thing before?” Kessa said.
“We Amarrians are a private people.” Lady Elliana said. “There is much about our ways that you Gallente could never understand. He is a specialized and highly guarded rarity. I have never heard of one to be removed from Amarr Prime. He will have been raised in such isolation and indoctrination that he would rather die than leave his station. How did you even get him here? Where did you find him?”
“He was behind a locked room on some luxo-yacht. Our infiltrator operative hacked the system and flooded the vents with- well, a vaporized blend of Blue and Sooth. Made the whole crew happy zombies.” Pheosa said.
“I even got the steward to put red coloring in the laundry.” Timeo said. “All of their clean uniforms will be pink. All of them.”
“Why didn’t you capture an Admiral or Lord Holder or something like that?” Elliana said.
“He looked important.“ Pheosa said.
“I guess we saw him and subconsciously thought ‘hay- Kameira Commander on vacation’” Timeo added.
“Idiots.” Elliana said.
“Who grabbed him anyway?” Kessa asked.
“This is my fault.” Phoesa said. “Slumped on his bed he looked just so perfect. And he had a slave collar on. Just one of the bow-tie ones but still. In his stupor, He asked if I was an angle or a demon.”
“It’s not like we had other business to be about.” Timeo said, Tallia was quite sure he was being sarcastic.
“Our original target escaped in a shuttle.” Pheosa said. “We changed our objective. Grab a bunch of slaves and anyone we thought was important. As many as we could fit in our frigate. Really a bunch of tourist no-bodies though.”
“Who pray tell was your real target?” Elliana said. Kessa stepped forward then.
“Stop! Lady Elliana, Tallia, we appreciate the help but you are not privy to this information. You have been of great assistance. We will see you out now.”
Tallia looked in through the two way mirror. One of the other male soldiers had entered, giving the vegetarian option to Caber. Caber sat down, delicately scooping a yellow root vegetable into the spoon. Dabbing the sauce up with the flat bread, each bite taken with relish. Not the gobbling of the uncouth.
“Please, can I talk to him again? Maybe I can help him.” Tallia said.
“Absolutely not.” Elliana said. “He is the most dangerous of wiles. Especially for a free-civilian Amarrian.”
“He’s not dangerous.” Timeo said. “We were slapping him around and he would do nothing.”
“Of course you idiots. Would anyone let a slave tending to violence anywhere near the feet of your Lady Holder? His obedience is absolute.”
“Do you really think he was a Royal foot rubber?” Timeo said
“Perhaps. If I see his original garments I could tell.” Elliana said.
“He was only clad in a loin cloth.” Pheosa said.
“That is just his underwear. He was probably engaging in his thrice daily physical routine, or at respite when your drugs hit him.” Elliana said.
“What will you do with him?” Tallia said.
“Some big wig from the Federation Navy came and took that Kameira’s body away. Do you think they’ll want this guy too?” Timeo said.
“That would be cruel.” Tallia said. “He is a slave. Shouldn’t that get him asylum?”
“My family, we will vouch for him. This is my fault. We can take him in.” Phoesa said.
“He won’t have any trouble finding work.” A random guard injected.
“I would take him in. We have an extra room-my sister and I.” Said another.
“We can start a fund. Get him an apartment.” Injected yet another voice.
Timeo alone stood in his corner. His eyes widening. “Oh gods, I will call ‘Scantly Clad’ productions right now. We have our new reality show. Lets see how many women can fit in this guys apartment. Holo-vid hall of fame here we come!” Timeo said. His sarcasm was not disguised by his accent.
“You see it Mr. Timeo, the danger here with this man?” Elliana said.
“I-“ he started but then closed his mouth.
“If the secrets to his genetics are unleashed no free-born man will ever stand up to the generation of his get. What woman save the most devout could resist bearing his lineage. No loose Gallente for sure.”
“That is an insult.” Kessa said.
“Take it for what you will. But these do not have the restraint. I barely do.” Elliana said as she gestured to the growing gathering of female personnel.
Kessia slowly nodded.
“He must be returned.” Elliana said.
“Returned to his lap-dog life of slavery? I don’t think so. Ask him what he wants.” Pheosa said.
“That is what he wants.” Elliana said. “He will likely be executed, but if you ask him he would choose that.”
“That is ridiculous. Why would they execute him?” Tallia said.
“The risks of his corruption at the hands of this moment of freedom are too great to let him serve in such an intimate way.”
“I thought that was what glaive-collars were for. You know the drugging kind? Or vitoc.” Pheosa said.
“Your promiscuous culture blinds you to a true peril. Even as your holo-vids and day time operas are slathered with the violent foils and dangers of it. The Glaive, and Vitoc, such physical methods can account for overt defiance but it offers no armor for the heart or soul.”
“Amore’ armor does not exist.” Tallia said in a whisper she hoped no one heard. In that moment she imagined Caber’s arms wrapping around her. Of coming home to his warmth and ways. Of tending to Holy Service via holo-vid in the humble closet of a temple on the station with him at her side. Lady Elliana set a hand to Tallia’s shoulder. The older woman’s eyes creased in sorrow as they offered a quiet denial of the dream. Tallia felt like she wanted to cry. Like when she was a little girl, gently holding the golden furrier chick and hearing her father say ‘no’.
“Such as he is not for a common woman, or even the lesser holder. Of course he may not die. He may be retired to stud.” Elliana said.
“Vile.” Pheosa said.
“You say it so casually.” Kessa added.
“Like a cattle. A mere beast. He his a human being.” Pheosa said. “Damn no. We are not sending him back.”
“What about…can’t he go into retreat somewhere?” Tallia said.
“Perhaps.” Elliana swept up a hologram from her com. All the planets of the Gallente Federation swirled before her.
“There are monasteries in your Federation. This one, an Amarrian temple set up in the Gray Cole hills. It is far away from anything. I understand that the monks there live a cloistered life of solitude and prayer. He may find solace and peace among them.” Elliana said.
“Gray Cole hills, what planet are they on?” a voice hummed from the crowd.
“I just might go on a pilgrimage.” Another quiet voice could be heard.
“Out! All of you.” Kessia barked. “Timeo, get Caber to the showers before we all become loons. Elliana, Tallia, you stay. The rest of you back to work!” It took several more snaps for Kessia to clear the room.
“Lady Elliana, I want you to write a letter to that monastery. Tell them what they need to know. See if they can help us shelter and sequester this man.”
“You will ignore his own wishes?”
“I want to give him a chance to have his own will. When he can act on his own, he may do so.” Kessia said.
“That will surely be his knell. In the end he will choose Amarr. But I will do what you ask.” Elliana said as she moved to the corner with her personal com. Kessa turned toward Tallia.
“Tallia, I will get you the files to process Mr. Caber. Expedited political asylum. I will have the judge review his case this afternoon.”
“Why so quickly?” She asked.
“I need to get him off this station. Now.”
On the monitor Timeo came into view as he entered the cell. He had a towel and a sundries kit. “Come on, I’m suppose to take you to the showers.” He said.
“Why do you need to move him so quickly?” Tessia said. “The judges are never that fast.”
“I suspect Officer Kessa is aware of the Imperial Emissary’s shuttle that has just entered the system.” Elliana said. She was bent to the chirp of her personal com.
“Turn that com off.” Kessa said.
“I though you wanted that letter right away?” Elliana said.
“An Imperial Emissary? From the Empress? Coming here? Does that mean he serviced the Empress?” Tallia asked.
“I suspect they have been sent to bargain for him. A ransom. Unless you have another person of importance claimed from that yacht?” Elliana said.
Kessa was silent.
“By your own laws, he had done no wrong. You can’t keep him if he chooses to go.” Elliana added.
In the room below, Caber stood. Timeo was puffed up again, measuring his height, standing a little too close. His orders barking as he tired to hand the sundries basket to Caber, who refused to take it. Timeo’s hand tapped insultingly on the face of the elite servant of Amarr.
“I told that idiot to stop that.” Kessa stood quickly.
In the next moment Timeo was splayed on the floor. The sundries scattering. Caber having backhanded him with force. Timeo crawled backward out the door. Caber cradled his hand.
Elliana let out a hiss. “You see? It is too late. His corruption has already begun.”
“Oh by the Holy One. I am so sorry. I told him to do that.” Tallia said. “I just wanted him to stand up for himself. To be-I don’t know…”
“To be a real man?” Kessa said.
YC 124 NEWCWC -Child of March-Child of the Fleet-
Disclaimer: This story, though sometimes light-hearted in its writing touches on very emotional topics and social concepts that are not explored to a full fruition. Let me know if you need me to continue this tale.
Lady Evalia inhaled as a breeze teased the curtains bringing her spring smells of tilled earth and the heavenly tial flowers. Wheat would be planted soon. She glanced up as Mia, the plump serving woman creaked about refreshing the tea nook. Gold floral place mats cradled the white porcelain. Four clean plates were now ready for guests should they come. Her marble slicing board was added to the head. Lady Evalia had procured a fresh cheese, a rare treat of spring, to be served with the tea. God made a beautiful day.
Lady Evalia smiled up from her reading, but only for a moment. There was only one teacup, her casual floral day cup patterned with the dancing furriers.
“Mia, please put out two cups. The formal ones please.”
“Yes ma’Lady. But I thought you had canceled your two o’clock with Ms. Kasilia.
“I have. I am expecting a more important guest. Make a sandwich too?”
“Of course My Lady.” Mia said , bowing.
The gate alert sounded from Evalia’s personal com. A cab waited at the curled fence. A quiet breath was taken as Evalia punched the com code to let them in. A well tended engine hummed its approach. The tap of a cane echoed from the hallway. Butler Piatre was on the move.
The door chimed.
“Ma’Lady?” Piatre said.
“Guide him to the nook Piatre.” Evalia called. The entrance way shared a low trace of voices punched by the clunking of luggage.
A tall boy tipped into the nook, ducking as if he was afraid his new hight would knock his head to the chandelier. Overly large feet stepped with care, desperate to find grace on the white woven carpet. One shoulder was slung with a personal coms bag. As his pictures told, he was becoming more and more his fathers image every day. A countenance that made him look as night to the day Evalia tried to spread in her dwelling. Evalia breathed slowly as she rose.
“Carlin, welcome. Gods foot prints have guided you to my door.” Evalia said. Her back straight. She spotted Mia’s shadow as the woman peaked through the kitchen door crack. The tap of Piatre’s cane did not tell of his wander away.
Carlin offered a shallow bow “Lady Evalia, please invite my treaty for your audience.”
“Sit.” Evalia gestured to the table. Carlin first stepped to the seat he was directed to but then quickly stood to pull out Evalia’s chair for her. A proper move for a gentlemen when a servant is not attending.
Evalia rang her bell. Mia appeared with the tea kettle in one hand and the sandwich in the other. The sandwich was trimmed into six pieces for a bite sized nibble. The cheese was set to the board. Then Mia vanished, though with certainty Mia was the reason for the odd shadows creeping from the door crack to the kitchen.
“Carlin, why are you here?”
Broad hands unzipped the coms bag. A leather fold, white and traced in gold was pushed toward her. “Aun-, Lady Evalia, I would entreat you to consider me for a position of Page.”
Evalia took the portfolio. Inside it would be a digital record, all the data on the holder-son’s life, his illustrious blood line back to True Amarr roots, primed letters of recommendation, and finally his plan for the future. Not some dream future, but a hope for a great reality. Evalia did not open it. Instead she poured the tea.
“Carlin, tell me why you are here. With me.” She asked again.
This elicited a response of clenching fists and a shifting of feet. The youth straightened up only to lurch as his chair tipped. He managed to right himself, steadied and dignified. Still, his eyes would not meet hers.
“Because I defended my father’s honor.”
“Carlin, this portfolio was not prepared for me. You were suppose to be attending as honor Page to Lord Holder Galliun. A man who could guide this portfolio from root to flower. Now please, you are not a soul to gloss truth. Tell me, why are you here?”
“I punched Lord Holder Galliun’s son. But he said things!”
Punch was an easy word. The boys had gone into full brawl from the telling. Holder Galliun’s son would be days before the blackened eye would be fit for public.
“Words should not flare the temper. A true Amarrian uses his faith before the fight.”
“He called father a coward, a backless barker, unworthy. And he said vile untruths about mother. Things to me-” Carlin’s lip quivered. His breath slowed as he tried to reign in the passions of youthful emotions. Evalia was certain that his face would have been red with held rage if his skin was not so dark.
“If the words are false, then a voice is dust to be cleansed by the rain of your faith. Gods will, and your actions guide your path. Not the words of a holder brat.” Evalia said. She had not intended the grow in her voice, but happen it did. Galliun’s son had been inexcusably loutish, especially at a public event.
Carlin stilled his twisting fingers, folding them tight as if each hand was holding the other to stillness. “My actions have dishonored us. I can only walk forward with the mark and by God’s grace build a tower of truth over it.”
Evalia fingered her tea cup. The white porcelain played with a decoration of fine gold. She took a sip. A tiny fuster tweet landed in the wide leafed kinal bush right at the window. A few dried winter berries bobbed as the creature poked them, rejecting the wrinkled things with an indignant warble before flitting off.
“And what is the truth of you?” Evalia said.
Carlin grabbed his cup, both hands enveloping around it. Evalia imagined the cup crumbling in his grip. Carlin released it.
“I do not know.” He said.
“Your mother finally told you?”
“You are a bright boy. It is hard to imagine that you considered otherwise.”
“I have considered. An accepted bastard would be one thing, but this truth…”
“And do you fully accept this truth?”
He nodded, a deeper nod. His eyes finding the floor.
Evalia stood and moved to the window. Her words had to be careful, but no fallacy. “War is a thing of terrible truths. A path of deep pain and darkness who’s long victims number most among those who raise no arms. Feral men succumb to a base of primal nature, violence, and rage. It was fifteen years ago in the June of the YC calendar that the Minmatar Eldar Fleet had swept through our lands. But a seed is not the only factor of a harvest. We graft the limbs of the appial fruit. With a stronger root it can bear superior fruit.”
Carlin was looking at her now. Those eyes once child-merry as he toddled after his older sister in this garden. Those eyes that guarded as younger kin hopped rocks and poked at the monsters in the deep lily pond. Those eyes that watched as tiny cakes were stacked, and did not hide the truth as one went missing. No crumb of evidence could be found on him, just the frosting face of his baby half-brother with whom he had shared in the guilt.
“Carlin, I was there when you were born. A tiny squall of force calmed when I looked into your face. There was a moment when they tried to take you away. But your mother said no. You have been wanted ever since.”
The boy smiled then. A quiet, powerful, teasing turn of the mouth edge. The first true expression of his nature since he stepped into the room.
“Carlin, who are you?”
Carlin set both hands to table, then tucked them to his side. He stood, grace befit his movements as he inclined his head to her and then offered his eyes. Those eyes flashed the dark and the light, intense, the eyes of a man to be.
“I am an Amarrian, faithful and true. Son of Lord Kivian and Lady Allia. I serve God and Her Most Sublime and Imperial Majesty Catiz I, First Apostle of the True Faith and Sovereign Defender of the Imperial Rite.”
“Let your heart feel no other truth.” Evalia said. “Carlin, I am aware of your dreams. A stalwart rise of rank in the Imperial Navy, in this I can not teach you what you want to know. But I think I can help you find what you need. Can you accept my humble offerings?”
“Noble Evalia, I will entreat you to teach me.”
Evalia granted him a small nod. She opened the portfolio and pressed her finger to marker. It bleeped the acceptance.
“Carlin, I accept you as my Page.”
She cut a slice of the new cheese and lay it next to three crackers. Then she slid four of the sandwich bites onto Carlin’s plate. The boy poked three of the sandwiches into his mouth before chewing. Teenage boys were very trying to tea with.
“I had not considered a Page. What now should I do with you my nephew?”
Dawn seemed to suit Carlin as he came to the breakfast table primed. And though Rella had to toddle to the kitchen a second time for a quantity befit the guard hound, Carlin devoured his portion with some grace. Evalia flustered at not being able to read at the table but such would be rude.
“As you see I keep a small house hold. Mia sets the kitchen and Rella tends table and maids.”
“Father always said you were indulged. There are eleven slaves at your beckon.”
“Hm.” Evalia responded. She had not been aware her brother-in-law kept tabs. Her acquisitions were her business, and no one else’s.
“An indulgence for one is a necessity for my needs. Do not expect them to hop to your whim like in your fathers house. My staff has many responsibilities. Lay your suits out on the dressing table and they will be cleaned. Leave them on the floor and soon you too shall belong in the garden. I trust you to know how to care for your needs. We use the Amarr-Mall app for ordering our necessities. Your father granted you a stipend. Stay within your budget. Tutors will be interviewed this afternoon.”
“Father said I was to attend the Heideran Academy.”
“Wish-wash to him. He has resigned you to be my Page. I will handle it how I choose.”
“But I will fall behind!”
“Carlin, your grades are impressively advanced. My selected tutors will suffice.”
“Yes Aunty, but please make sure I keep up with the Imperial Academy requirements.”
“You will be tested at our Theocratic hall twice a month. How well you keep up your requirements will depend on your own will.” She said. “Come now, I have ordered our ride and it will be here in a moment.”
“Do you not have your own planetary vehicle?”
“I have my own plan-va, but I see no need to drive it most days.” She said. Evalia noted Carlin marking a quick note on his PC. In truth Piatre was the only one in the household with a license, and though the vehicles practically drove themselves she did not trust the old slave’s perception much anymore. Besides, if he drove then he would spend the day waiting in the car. A true waste of everyone’s time. Evalia plucked a spent bloom from the gergans planter as they walked out to the drives gate.
“As you know I arrange silk fabrication from growing the nutrient feed plants, harvesting the spi’da secretions, perfecting the weave, onto delivery. My newest venture is finally taking our fabrics to a full fruition. This summer we are revealing our second line of hand tailored suits and professional day wear.” Evalia said excitedly as she pulled up the ordering site on her com.
“Ladies dresses.” Carlin said. The lowering disappointment in his voice could not be more apparent.
“Mostly dresses. Yes.” She said, suddenly regretting that all her products were attire for women. The plan-va took them toward the downtown around the back quarter.
“Carlin, I am sorry. I can not teach you about space, missile trajectory, or how to properly fit a frigate.”
“I know Aunty”
“And what stories I tell of war will gift no Paladin’s heart to anyone.”
Carlin looked out the window.
“But a true man takes what God offers and trusts in his will. I will warn you, at my side you will be tempered. My life is a real life. Not the pageantry of your father’s hold. You must accept the heat and the shock. For you, there will be worse than the words of an equal. But I will be there. I am on your side. Do you understand?”
“Aunty, I will not loose my temper to words again.”
Evalia reached over and squeezed Carlin’s arm.
The plan-va stopped in the roundabout. The factory doorman was there, opening and bowing.
“Quickly now. Kasilia, my business partner will want my full inspection before our ten o’clock. We have an important broker arriving, and perhaps other guests.”
At the factory they entered onto the overseer’s deck. The hum and hisses of the machines deafened conversation. A tone sounded. The room silenced as rows and rows of slaves set down their work, stood, and bowed. At the next tone they resumed their labor. A red silk fabric spun off the line. Bolts were rolled, packed, and stacked.
“Are all these yours?” Carlin gestured to the hundred strong force. Evalia beckoned him to the more quiet hallway.
“We have a few commoners in the mix but that main room is staffed at a rental from Lord Holder Varsque of whom we also rent the land we now stand on.” Evalia said. “But in this next room, these here are my households acquisition’s to our Lady Holder, my mother’s estate, as well as my most talented commoner employees.”
“I do not understand why you rent when Grandmother has plenty of properties.”
“Location Carlin. Mother’s estate is very rural. This city has connections.”
They entered a large room. Machines lined the walls and a maze of tables. Machines that were weaving, cutting, stitching, and analyzing to the whims of the staff that tended them.
The room rose to attention. The only difference between slave and commoner was the depth of the bow. In the next moment all the staff bent up, and none could tell the difference.
Tess, a favored slave and Evalia’s personal assistant approached, pressing an ornate tumbler into her waiting hand. The spiced milk-tea was cool to the touch. Just the way she liked it.
“My Lady Evalia. We have a guest?” Tess said.
“Please everyone, I would like to introduce my nephew, Lord Carlin. He will be attending as my Page for the next year.”
“Your nephew? The holder’s son?” a voice burst above the rest. “That is why you canceled our tea? I would have brought my Kim over to welcome him proper. You should have had me there to greet-” a lean woman emerged from a side closet, stopping short. Evalia knew that Kasilia was imagining Carlin’s half brother, the one who was now eleven years old. Carlin stiffened, pulling his shoulders squared and hands to the back into a stance that the commoner’s fondly labeled- ‘the holder at rest’.
“Oh that nephew. I see.” Kasilia said.
“Carlin, this is Mrs. Kasilia Weaver, my business partner.”
“Charmed.” Carlin said.
“By the Imperial toes he is a tall one!” Kasilia said.
“Carlin, this way. I want to show you the fruits of our efforts.”
“Twelve years of work mind you.” Kasilia said.
“I acquired this brood of furrier, hatched out in the neighbors wheat field. A very peculiar genetic mutation put a crimp in their fur, yet they were still luxuriously soft. Normal furrier coats are too slippery to spin, but this crimping left exposed scales. This means we can blend it with our silk and weave it. Behold, our first suit made of a silk and furrier blend.”
Carlin looked. Kasilia too was looking, watching him. Evalia snorted.
“Come feel this. Superior in strength with a soft flow. No synthetic can match its luxury.”
“Eva dear, I, um…”
“What is it?”
“I do not think his hands should touch the Imperial fabric.” Kasilia said.
“Mrs. Weaver, he to is royal blood. A branch of my holder tree. My nephew. He may handle all that I handle.”
“I would have severed that branch.” Kasilia said. If the woman thought her voice could whisper too softly for anyone to hear, she was very much wrong.
“Pardon?” Evalia said.
“I was just concerned about the natural grease”
Evalia did not offer a response. Her eye flitted to her nephew who only looked back to her with eyes trying very hard not to express. Evalia lifted the plastic and took Carlin’s hand setting it to the sleeve of the fabric. At the touch his eyes did express.
“It is very light.” He said.
“We have a broker coming this afternoon. She has connections. We are hoping to maneuver this very garment into the Imperial wardrobe of the Empress.”
Carlin’s eyes widened.
“I knew that would catch your mind.”
Kasilla slowly, deliberately wheeled the stand away, Carlin letting fabric slide from his grip. Kasilla made a visible effort of inspecting the sleeve and patting the covering back into place. “Evalia, we have no time for ogling. We need to finish the preparations.”
“We are ready. But I will indulge you.” Evalia said.
A small boy careened into Kasilia’s leg, reaching up to tug the long braid that hung down his mothers back.
“Mo-ba! Fur-ba!” the child wailed.
“Oba, please grab him.” Kasilia groaned. The children’s nanny toddled over and picked up the fretting child. She was closely followed by Kasilia’s eight year old daughter Kim.
“Sorry ma’am. He’s just going on about the furriers again.” Oba said, bowing even as she held the child.
“Now! Now!” The child said.
“My dear Momon, mommy will take you to pick out a chick after lunch.” Kasilia said.
“His hair, it curls like the furrier hair.” The older daughter Kim said as she pointed at Carlin.
“Be respectful Kim. This is Lady Evalia’s nephew.” Kasilia sad.
“How is that so?” Kim said. Evalia saw Carlin’s scowl, but it was quickly masked to statelyness.
“I want my furrier.” The boy Momon said.
“Kasilia, didn’t he get one for a pet not a month ago?” Evalia said.
“You know it was a cull. Poor stamina. It died a week later.” Kasilia said.
Evalia shook her head. Boys could be hard on creatures. She had little doubt that Momon was not suited to a pet yet.
Evalia turned to her assistant Tess.
“Tess. Please give Carlin a tour. A demonstration of our All-Dimensions 3-D scanner and our testing lab is appropriate.”
“Oh yes, Oba, take the children on the tour with Tess too.” Kasilla added.
“Lady Evalia, we will need access to the development wing.” Tess said.
“Oh bother. Now we will be rushed.” Evalia said
“Don’t you worry about it.” Kasilia said “My Kim knows the password. She’ll open it for them.”
“Kas, I know we talked about giving your daughter the all-access code.”
“Yes, Eva. We need to talk about such things indeed.” Kasilla said. No one missed her side long glance at Carlin.
Evalia set a hand to the arm of Kasilia, guiding her forward. Kasilia wheeled the garment rack as they walked to the conference room.
“The development wing is a good place to put him. We will have to be sure Tess is aware of our progress with the broker, just in-case they too want a tour as well.” Kasilia said.
“What are you talking about?” Evalia said.
“Don’t you think his presence will diminish our brand?”
“Kasilia, you are truly insulting today.”
“Well I didn’t mean your-you. Just that if the broker sees him, and thinks about it. They don’t know your family.”
“Enough Kasilia. We will discuss your pecking later.” Evalia looked back. Carlin was watching her go.
Carlin followed Tess to the development wing. How insulting could Kasilia, that woman, that commoner be? These hands are a branch of Lady Holder Ressalia’s tree, grandmother’s roots by blood. Far more Chosen than any commoner.
Carlin studied his reflection in the polished side of the M-Tensle X9. Half of himself at least was holder. The inside half. He didn’t even look like any of the servants that were kept at the house. Maybe his father was afraid of them, of him. Carlin had done his research in the secret of the night. His other half had to be one of those monstrous Brutor. He prayed to stop growing. More than likely he would break seven feet in the next year. That was their standard growth pattern.
“Lord Carlin?” Tess asked.
“Yes, I am ready. You may begin.” Carlin said.
Oba lifted up the wiggling Momon so that he could poke the blinking marker in tandem with his sister Kim. Inside the clear box the tiny robot hands began to tug and twist the fabric sample. It was sprayed with goop and pelted with all sorts of rays.
“When does the laser come in?” Carlin asked.
“On your command.” Tess answered.
Carlin waved his hand. The laser warning came on screen. The box automatically tinted as a point of light began to hiss across the sample.
Tess at least gave him the proper respect.
“You see it burns but it does not hold the flame. The unique keratin composition of the furrier hairs seem to snuff out the ignition.”
“So it won’t catch fire?”
“Oh it will, but it is easy to put out. We have five of these machines here. It is not the most advanced system, but it works for us. This test over here has been running for almost six months. We have a color fading problem, but that is something we might have a solution to soon.”
“Rainbow furriers!” Kim spouted.
“Yes, yes the rainbow furriers. We’ll go look at them later.” Tess said.
“I want to see them now.” Kim said.
“Now, now!” Momon parroted. Only he did it with more volume, hopping along with the words.
“Kim, we are taking Carlin to see our full body pattern scanner. Wouldn’t you like to stand in the scanner too?”
“I do that every day.” Kim said.
“Furriers!” Momon started to snivel. He ran over and grabbed Carlin’s hand. Oba sprang over and hushed him away, but his wide eyes looked back at Carlin, pleading.
“I guess we could see the furriers first.” Carlin said.
A solar atrium welcomed them to an aerial view through the glass down onto the stock floor. A smell of animals could not be drowned. Slaves weaved in and out of the isles and pens below. They wore long gloves and heavy jackets. Each brandished a long pole with a soft hook on one end to lasso the flitting creatures. At their hips hung paddles cut with notches in them for pinning the beasts at close quarters. Furriers hopped, skittered, and flopped. The room was partitioned off with the creatures sorted by color. Blacks, browns, silvers, and even some with a ruddy tone. There was a predominance of white. One corner there was a small rough of furrier who sported brilliant, unnatural coloring.
“I see you are eying our rainbow crew.” Tess said.
“Do you die them in the egg?” Carlin asked.
“They are fed a synthetic pellet we obtained from an Achura trader. This infused color seems to hold more bold than the die lots. Lady Evalia is trying to secure us a staff geneticist. We think we can even tease out an iridescence from the natural scaling of the hairs.”
“Take us down to pet them.” Kim tugged at Oba’s sleeve.
“Young lady, you know these furrier are not pets. Your mother said that we will go to the hatchery later.” Oba said.
In that moment Carlin saw Momon pull himself up onto a tree pot. The plant began to tip. A wide stride and a fast shoulder shielded Momon from a bop but the child’s hands grabbed his jacket. A smear of muddy hand prints were the reward to the white surface.
“Oh sir, oh sir. I am so sorry.” Oba blotted at the spot smearing it further.
Carlin waved her away. “I will have it cleaned later.”
Oba bowed low. “Oh Momon, how could you get so messy? Kim, you stay by Tess and Carlin. I need to get your brother cleaned. You mind them you hear?”
“Yes Oba.” Kim huffed even as the woman was already down the hall.
“Is there not a playground for them?” Carlin asked Tess.
“This is an industrial district. Lord Holder Varsque has not invested in facilities for children here.” Tess said.
Carlin marked this on his com-pad. His grandmother had once mentioned that a Holder’s responsibility is to see to the service of those whom serviced her. She kept a diary set just for that. He started his own diary that day. His mother said that it had made his grandmother proud, though his grandmother never expressed such to him.
Click-click, the coded door closed.
“Kim? Oh that imp.” Tess barked as she moved to the window. Kim was already descending the stairs to the floor below.
“I am so sorry Lord Carlin. We have to go to the front. I don’t have the code.”
Carlin followed as they dashed back out and down to the slaves entrance. Tess got them quickly admitted. The slave master bowed even as he whispered that it was ‘highly suspect’.
“I’ll bet she’s by those rainbow ones.” Carlin said. He had to raise his voice over the volume of chirps and twitters.
“I’ll not take that bet sir.” Tess responded as she led the way.
The pens were constructed of metal lattice with glass panels inside so that one could clearly see the contents. It was a highly climbable surface from the outside, but not so from the inside. Designed so that if a furrier did slip out the door, it would likely climb up and hop into another pen it could not again escape from. Kim had apparently climbed the enclosure, offering Tess only a smile when the woman pointed to the locked door.
“Oh I need the floor manager!” Tess dashed off again.
Carlin leaned against the pen door. Great, the real world was filled with brats too.
Kim tapped on the glass next to him. “See they are so beautiful” Kim said as she hugged one toned to a rich purple. Its scaly head turned in a quizzical fashion before it darted. Kim dropped it. A strip of her sleeve dangled, dampening with red. “Ow! Mean.” she cried. Her sandaled foot kicked out at it. The beak of a bright blue one lashed out, grabbing onto the sandal straps. Kim screeched.
Inside the pen, the furriers went from pleasant chirps to a wave of chittering. A large pink beast crouched low, and sprang, clawing up Kim’s back.
With a lunge Carlin scaled the lattice dropping down with a fist to the crest of the pink one. It rolled up to stand, hissing, scattering the light brown hairs of Kim’s ponytail from its beak. In the next move Carlin scooped up Kim, shaking off her sandal and the blue furrier that insisted on its prize. Viridian, violet, and vermilion beasts pecked and slashed at Carlin’s shoes and pants legs. A bright yellow one leapt up, snapping for Kim’s dangling toes. Carlin lifted her up, as high as he could. Against the wall Kim managed to stand on his shoulder, leaning against the pen wall. The large pink one bobbed again as it approached. Carlin was ready for the spring as the slashing beak and grabbing claws clamped on to his raised arm.
“God save us.” Tess shouted from outside the pen. In the next moment three slaves burst in, electro paddles and hooks quickly maneuvering the rough of furriers, making a path. Carlin carried Kim out.
Evalia settled down to review the daily production reports. The evening was quiet. Carlin’s tutor had just left and he was engrossed deep in his com pad. Dinner would be set within the hour. On the table was displayed the honor gift from Kasilia’s daughter. A side arm with matching saber. Proper gifts for the valiant act of a Holders son, kind of. Both were more ornamental than functional. ‘True gifts for my true defender.’ The letter read, accented with drawings of very vicious looking furriers. The arms were very gaudy, toned in a rainbow of colors. Kasilia must have let the child pick them out herself. Carlin accepted the gifts with grace befit his name and station.
“Aunt Evalia, I am sorry the broker didn’t like your suit.”
“I am not. It was as I expected. We received some very nice input. Our next garment will be even better. We are aiming for the closet of the Empress, after all.”
“Yes, my nephew?”
“I was looking at the tensile strength tests of your silk-furrier blend. Is the thread really that light, yet so strong?”
“Our machines tested it to be so. Its durability will be praised to the galaxies end. A suit made by our hands will stand the test of time.”
“Aunty, have you ever considered making body armor out of it?”
Evalia closed her com pad and gave Carlin her full attention. “Carlin, tell me what you are thinking. Show me what you have found.”
Sorry about the naughty words. I thought I cleaned them up. Should I replace them?
Updated with all known entries to date! Reminder deadline is MAY 31st!
Feel free to submit your own or nominate someone else’s!
Updated. Last two days for entries. Deadline is may 31st! ((timezone - anywhere))