Post 44: What had he done?

Writer’s Note:  So, this almost turned into a recap episode.  Or maybe it IS the equivalent of a recap episode.  I don’t know.  I had to happen, I guess.  Anyone looking forward to sexy time scenes will be disappointed.  Sorry.  Maybe I’ll feel more adventurous at the next pass over this material.  Or not.  Who knows.  Anywho… I think otherwise I did an okay job of connecting some dots that have been waiting very patiently to get connected.  Once I go back through all of this at once (and not one page at a time) it may turn out that less recap is needed.  Again, we’ll see.

 

 

Cael lay, drowsily entangled between Senka and Udo. Their bodies pushed softly against him with each breath as they slept in the glow of the lamplight. He assumed the line of credit Sieffre had created for him was enough hold the room for the night, as well as his new companions. Cael sighed. After four years of abstinence and boredom, the last hour had been a very welcome, no… needed, relief. While he did feel more relaxed, the activity had sobered him up a bit, and his mind refused to drift off to sleep. He knew that if he wanted, he could always wake the two up for an encore, and again and again until his credit ran out; but for now, he wanted to think. A vague anxiety kept worrying at the edges of his thoughts and he supposed he should use the quiet moment to finally stop ignoring it.

Was it Mari? He still wasn’t sure how much faith he should put in anything Sieffre told him. He knew he was most likely being manipulated by the both of them. It was possible that Mari truly was sick, though, and Sieffre was reaching out in the limited way he knew how. However, having her little helper around was already proving to be very beneficial.

Alberich’s split personality was turning out to be more annoying than menacing. Cael thought of the snoring mess in the lobby, half his face still scratched up and the rest of him reeking of old sweat and curry. Yet, that mess of a person had convince a ship of men to murder a third of themselves. There was mystery there that he still needed to suss out. If only his kampdator hadn’t smashed to bits before he could take a look at those therapy sessions.

Cael cursed the moment at the moon’s port when he and Alberich had flown off Ilya’s motor bike. Or was it earlier when he drove the motor bike into Alberich and Lukas? He grimaced at how much he’d already damaged the man he’d promised to help. It had to have been somewhere around that time, however, that Alberich had lost his grip of both his kampdator and his suitcase. Why the authorities had brought in his broken kampdator and not the suitcase was beyond him, but Cael tried not to dwell on it. Was that what was bothering him?

No. There was this… absurd emptiness left behind by a missing suitcase, but it was definitely a separate feeling from the anxiety he was trying to place.

Was it Ilya? The pressure he felt to keep her safe and get her home was there, but that was straight forward enough.

Cael delicately extracted an arm from underneath Senka, and flexed the blood back into his hand. As soon as he dropped his arm again, Senka snuggled under it. He looked down at his bare torso, and appreciated in the warm light of the faux antique lamps the contrast of his pale skin with the olive and chocolate tones of his companions. He was suddenly struck again by the memory of Alberich on the cattle transport ship. The half naked men, shivering and purple in the cold black-light of the rigged lamps. The infected glowing an impossibly bright yellow where the dead cell bodies of the Legion took the place of skin, or excreted as waste from sweat glands or tears. Lying in the yellow lamplight, Cael could just make out the scar remnants of each bite on his chest and stomach from the Legion-mutated roaches. He remembered examining himself in secret and discovering his own skin, dimly glowing around each bite; and the anxiety he had been experiencing suddenly focused.

How exactly did the Legion pass from body to body? He caught it from the roaches, so bites? Fluids? Cael thought of his two companions and a cold sinking feeling tugged at his stomach. Why had he not thought of it before? What had he done? They were surely immunized against most diseases one was at risk for in their business, but there was no protection from this. At least, he didn’t think there was.

Cael must have tensed up because both Senka and Udo stirred at the same time.

Udo propped himself up on one elbow.

“Are you alright?”

“Um… yes. I’m fine.”

Senka didn’t sit up, but smoothed out her hair as she spoke.

“Would you like us to draw you a bath? You seem very stressed.”

“No, no.. thank you. I was just… thinking.”

“Perhaps you would like another distraction from your thoughts?” Udo smiled.

“Ahhmm….” Cael was still reeling from his disturbing revelation and couldn’t think of what to say.

“It is late. Maybe we should leave you to sleep.” Senka suggested tactfully.

She slid off the bed and began to gracefully drape her dress around her. Udo followed her lead.

“At anytime during your stay here on Kennet, we are here for you.”

“Yes,” Cael nodded awkwardly from the bed as they both stood beside it, looking down at him. “Thank you, really.”

Senka leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I am going to start a bath for you before we go.”

Cael allowed himself to be coaxed into the hot bubbling water that was only a step away from the bed. The heat caused him to sigh heavily, despite the horrible churning in his stomach.

“Good, now we will leave you.”

Senka let the plastic curtain fall, closing him in the glowing closet. He splashed some water over his face and rubbed at it hard. What had he done? He thought back to the four years spent in close quarters with Ilya.

What had he done?

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Post 43: “You’re good.”

Writer’s Note:  Seriously, I need to start these posts earlier in the week.  BUT!  I have officially come to the end of the scene I had plotted out when I began with Cael, Ilya & Alberich at the first housing lobby.  So, that feels good.  The prospect of next week’s post is terrifying because I only have a vague idea of where I’m taking everyone.

The conversation with Udo could be expanded a bit.  I feel like he’s not a full person yet.  But, that’s what the next couple of rounds of editing will be for….

 

 

Cael drained the last of his foggy moonshine and signaled for another to the bartender, who was visibly annoyed at dirtying his newly cleaned bar.

“And what do you think? Are the Novafolk coming back?”

The woman paused thoughtfully with a smile carefully held in place. Cael could tell she already had her answer. She was pausing to consider what she would say.

“I have had the privilege of visiting a few Manana colonies. A little unrest is not uncommon or… unexpected? …from the miners. But who knows, perhaps Edgard Dessal will be able to hold these people together and keep the moon.” She sighed, “Either way, I am not concerned for my safety with the butch kuja watching over us.”

 

Ilya couldn’t hear what the two were saying from her vantage point in the hallway, but she saw sudden gleam of interest light up Cael’s eye. She knew the woman talking to him would have noticed the change as well.

 

“What’ss yr name?”

The woman paused again before saying, “Senka.”

“You keep hesitating before you answer.”

“You have so many questions.”

“That was only two!”

“Three, if you count asking about my long evening; but even so, I can see you have more.”

“Mm… s’rry. How about I buy you another drink?”

Senka cocked her head, letting long strands of dark hair fall across her face. “All right.”

She said, as bartender refilled her glass, “I hesitated before, because ordinarily when a gentleman asks for my name here… my response is always ‘whatever you desire.’” She mocked a seductive tone, tilting her chin down so she was looking up at him. “But,” she sat up again, taking a sip, “I can tell you are not interested in creating a fantasy tonight.”

“Are you sure? I have had a pretty shitty day, and I don’t know, myself, what I want.”

“Exactly!” Lenka flashed a bright, spontaneous smile. All at once, the expression made her entire demeanor more youthful while revealing the crows feet at the corner of her eyes. “You are obviously no miner, and you certainly do not belong here. You have an air of a wanderer. Lost men, such as yourself, appreciate a little truth now and then to hold on to.”

Cael pondered her logic while sipping has his own glass and nodded. “You’re good.”

 

Ilya knew she should just turn away, walk back down the hall, back into the room, and curl up on the chair. He Bhaga, but she knew she was exhausted enough to fall into an immediate and deep sleep. Something inside wouldn’t let her leave. She could center the feeling dead within the ache in her chest. She couldn’t even rationalize why she had to stay, but she had to. She had to make sure Cael did not leave with this woman. Ilya didn’t think Cael would abandon her… did she? Ilya shivered at the thought, but no, as unhappy as she imagined he was with her for inserting herself into this mess, she knew he would never abandon her here. Not here.

A tiny sigh of relief escaped her as she saw a second man in a stunning blue robe approach the bar and cuddle up behind the woman. Why was she so worried. The woman would certainly leave Cael when she found out he had no credit.

 

Cael nodded to the man as he rested a chin on Senka’s shoulder.

“This is my friend, Udo. Udo this is that woman’s brother…”

“Cael, m’name is Cael.”

“Ya ya you! I have never see the boss woman so happy.” It could have been the unfamiliar lilt of Udo’s accent, but Cael believed he caught a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

“I didn’t r’lly have an’thing to do with it, I swear. I hope it’s alright.”

“Don’t worry about him.” Senka leaned back playfully into her friend. “He’s only mad she didn’t bring anyone for him.”

Cael quickly assessed the man. He had, at first, assumed Udo was Moungren, but the features of this face were a little too round. He had the look of an artist or intellectual more than that of a physical laborer. The way he draped himself against the bar behind Senka mirrored her posture more closely than any of the patrons still lounging about the lobby.

“Yes, I can see how the men following Mari wouldn’t have been any help to you. But you do find enough business here usually?”

“Mining the asteroids that gather in this planet’s fulcrums is still a game of life or death. So much bravado and strength is required just to go out again and again to survive. With so much testosterone built up in this little atmosphere; masculinity becomes a religion in itself, I think. Sometimes it takes a man to understand what is needed to find relief from that sort of environment.”

Cael nodded. “Never thought of it that way. I assumed there would be taboos against your… um, services.”

“Oh there is. It’s why I get to charge more out here. Or did, anyway.” Udo sighed. “We’ve all had to deal with some lean times since the Novafolk were kicked out. Everyone’s afraid to spend their money, and lose what little they have.” He looked down at Senka, “I know I shouldn’t begrudge your good fortune just because I didn’t get to share in it.”

“Don’t worry, my love, you know I’ll always share with you.” Senka looked to Cael. Cael noticed Udo also looking to him.

The meaning behind their looks finally penetrated his moonshine clouded brain.

“Oh… you two you are good.”

 

Ilya’s heart leaped when she saw Cael stagger to his feet. She watched as he thew an arm over each of his new companions. The ache in her chest grew dense and numb as she watched the three make their way toward her in the hallway. There was a slight pause as the Novafolk woman in the clerk’s window verified Cael’s credit. To Ilya’s amazement, they were waved through, and the three passed her without so much as a glancing notice. She stood, petrified in place in the shadows of the guards, the numbness in her chest having spread to her limbs. Ilya watched the three figures disappear into the recesses of the dark hallway, it’s inky blackness growing and reaching out to her. It was only when her knees hit the carpet that she realized she had stopped breathing and almost fainted. One of the guards turned at the soft noise and she scrambled back to her feet. She forgot about the oversized robe wrapped around her and her legs fought through the fabric as she made her way back to Ilya’s room.

Pushing her way in blindly, Ilya knocked into the lamp set haphazardly on a pedestal. The loud pop of glass and electricity startled Mari and her companion from sleep as Ilya continued to force her way into the room.

“Ilya?” Mari’s voice croaked drowsily.

Ilya jumped into the cushioned chair and pulled the ends of the robe up around her head.

“Ilya. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” She mumbled through the fabric of the robe. “I’m sorry about the lamp.”

“Es Cael okay?”

“He’s fine.” Ilya tried to keep her tone as flat as possible.

“Where es ghe?”

Mari waited for an answer.

“He’s in another room.”

“Ghe’s en another….” There was a long sigh. “Do jyou need a pillow orgh anything?”

“No.”

“Jyou argh good, then?”

Ilya pulled tighter at the robe. “Yes.”

“Okay… good night, then.”

Ilya was wrong. Sleep did not come immediately, nor deeply.

Post 42: “No worries, my friend. Buy me a drink?”

Writers Note:  Feeling good!  I am so friggin close to closing this chapter!  Well… okay this scene anyway.  I had to experiment with Cael’s drunk talk a little.  I thought too many apostrophes would be distracting.  As for Ilya, I spent most of my time digging into my teen years of seeing dudes I was crushing on with other girls.  And that was basically the emotion I was trying to get across.  I hope it translates.  I hope it works.

 

 

Ilya lifted her head and pushed herself up enough to lean her shoulders and neck against the porcelain. The shower of water cooled enough by the time it reached her face to be a relief from the steaming heat of the bathwater. All she wanted to do was sleep. No, all she wanted to do was go home. She sighed. All she wanted to do was to go to Cael. Had she really thought she was running away to rescue him? The moment she decided to slip out of her mother’s home seemed so far away now, it was a different reality. A pleasant dream where Cael and Ilya played house and doctor like children. Her mad decision had been her attempt to remain in the dream, to hold on to it as she was forced to the waking world. She’d been nothing but a burden since finding him, and now he’ll have to find a way to get her home. It was only now, finally, that she understood it would only be her going back.

 

If you could create a line of credit so easily, why is Mari going through all the trouble of using the two Moungren’s credit lines? – Cael

Cael was already enjoying a second jar of some aptly named moonshine. His brain, now free from over-thinking, he was happily making his way through the soggy newspaper when the thought occurred to him.

Unfortunately, women can’t BE patrons at this particular establishment, only patronized. Plus, I’m sure she enjoyed the challenge, and I’ve learned not to step in until I have to. She was SO sure she would get a free room for all the business she brought with her! It’s good to know she still isn’t quite as charming as she thinks she is. – Sieffre

I would love to see what it takes to successfully charm one of these Novafold crones. – Cael

Cael snuck a glance at the doughy head and shoulders slouched in the clerk’s window. Their eyes met as she took a puff off of her cigar and he blinked hard, trying to look away naturally.

Strike that. No, I wouldn’t – Cael.

 

Ilya grew overheated in the bathwater and awkwardly sloshed her way to a standing position. She couldn’t hear anything over the shower. A peak through the plastic curtain confirmed still, sleeping bodies in the lamplight. The snoring man, Frantz had been moved to the threadbare carpet between her extruded shower and the bed, her borrowed green, fur coat tucked under his head like a pillow. Possibly cued by the opening curtains, the shower ceased and the tub quickly drained around her legs. As the heat seeped away, Ilya realized the wet payjamas pants and kurta top clinging to her skin were her only set of clothes. She stood helplessly for a moment, clutching her elbows, when a dark cloth robe unfolded itself from a hidden space between the wall and shower. She pulled it from where it hung on the wall and unsure of what to do, felt the thick, soft fabric and then sniffed it. It didn’t smell like much of anything, so with a shrug she draped it around her. She felt like a little child wearing her mother’s robe. Climbing over the edge of the tub and taking two steps, she was swimming in fabric. Ilya gathered the ends, threw one end over her shoulder and wrapped the other around her waist until she could hold the loose fabric to her body with one arm. She kicked off her sopping wet slippers and made her way to the hallway. She wasn’t comfortable with so many strangers in the room and wanted to see Cael.

 

Cael was squinting at blurry paragraph listing entities now friendly to the Moun nan Rebellion, further legitimizing their cause….

“Mind if I sit with you?” The feminine voice was soft and tired.

Cael looked up to see a middle aged woman with olive skin and waves of dark, curly hair that perfectly framed her heart shaped face. Her expression matched her voice, tired but calm and inviting. The warm lamplight would occasionally catch in her dark eyes, giving them an amber like quality.

“Be m’guest. Been a long day?”

The woman collapsed gracefully onto the stool, her elbow on the counter between drying glasses, her cheek resting against the back of her wrist. The dark, glittering fabric of her dress shifted loosely about her, artfully hiding and clinging against the shape of her body in a way intended to tantalize. She lightly laughed off what could have been taken as a very crude joke at her expense, and Cael realized his blunder.

“Oh, I begyr pardon, I didn’t mn to….”

“No worries, my friend. Buy me a drink?”

Before he could answer, she had nodded at the bartender who began pouring a concoction.

“Yes, of course.”

“And it has been a long day. I believe I have your… sister to thank? For the… sudden business this evening.”

Cael tried not to wince. “Yesss?”

“Then perhaps I should be the one to buy you a drink.”

 

Ilya crept down the dark hallway, ignoring the shocking and sometimes baffling noises emanating through the doors she passed; was that a man crying in baby talk about his diaper? She hid behind one of the oblivious guards as she peered into the lobby. There were definitely fewer people. Alberich could clearly be seen in the far corner, breathing heavily among the floor cushions. Movement by the bar caught her eye, and she saw Cael facing her, smiling. She was about to move out from behind the guard Cael laughed and began talking. With a sudden sinking heart, Ilya realized he was talking to the other figure at the bar. The person’s back was to her, but she could tell by the catlike repose that it was one of the women who worked here.

 

“No, of course not! It s’ms as though she isstaking carev all of us, tonight.”

“I find it difficult to believe you would need anyone to take care of you.”

“Very much to the contrary, I was finding myself completely helpless for a bed to sleep in tonight. These um, Novafolk… clerks can be….”

“Kujinski bitches?”

“Ha! T’put it plitely, I guess.” Cael leaned in and dropped his voice to whisper. “You’d think they would relax a little, after the rebellion n’all.”

The woman leaned in as well. “Between you and me, I think they secretly expect the Manana Corporation will take the moon back at any moment.”

 

Ilya watched the two lean in and the sinking feeling in her chest turned into an ache, but she couldn’t look away. This was stupid. Hadn’t she already resolved herself to going home alone? They were nothing to each other. He was never a real husband, and in all their time working together she had never thought of him as one. So what was this? What was she doing?

Post 41: What the hell are Tasty Hinges?

Writer’s Note:  So happy I waited to write this particular passage.  I really was at a loss as to how Cael was going to get his own line of credit.  I had always planned on him having one (for other reasons you’ll see in later posts) but the means by which he would get it didn’t come to me until just this last Friday.  And now it seems so obvious!

ENJOY

Cael found himself back in the dim lobby. He gave cursory glance at the sleeping mass in the corner that was Alberich as he headed for the empty bar.

Cael then sat down just as he remembered he had no access to credit, and therefore could not buy himself a drink. He quietly gripped the edge of the bar and took a deep breath. What a night. The bartender’s newspaper was now spread out on the counter, catching water that ran off the glasses he was cleaning and setting out to dry. Cael moved a couple of tumblers and carefully flipped over the page in front of him. The bartender glanced his way but didn’t seem to mind.

As he skimmed over the articles, Cael’s eyes caught the odd word or name, “rebellion,” “sabotage,” “the people,” “Moungren” and “Novafolk,” the latter usually followed by “bastard” and maybe “the oppressors,” and many quotes from an “Edgard Dessal.” The surrounding words were similar enough to the ancient Romance languages that Cael should have been able to decipher the articles easily. However, he decided he was just too tired and it was too dark to focus on the blurry typesetting, or he was not drunk enough to let his brain work on its own. He scratched at his arm and remembered he was still wearing the laveli pad. He perked up as he peeled the pad off his forearm and laid it over the page. The translucent pad softly glowed at his touch. He could have used it to magnify the text, but instead took the easier route and had the pad translate each line as he dragged a finger over it.

Those who were able to attend the open conference yesterday were treated to another rousing speech by Edgard Dessal. The message is one of hope and endurance in these uncertain times.

“We must work together as brothers and sisters to find the strength in ourselves. We have for so long, worked to steal from the oppressors that little bit that was ours. But now to steal that little bit is to steal from ourselves. The Novafolk bastards have tried to overwhelm us with the Tasty Hinges, to dilute our power with waves of fresh blood, to replace us once they’ve used us up. But we are the descendents of self-liberators and we will honor those ancestors….”

Cael blinked and reread the passage. Yep, it definitely said Tasty Hinges. Was that just a glitch in translation? He tried to think of a similar metaphor or a colloquialism but his mind was blank. After a fruitless minute or two of racking his brain, Cael was interrupted by a glowing pulse along the bottom edge of the levali pad. He sighed and tapped the edge to see an incoming message, the pad’s translucent skin clouded to an opaque gray.

Hi! Can we speak for a moment? – Sieffre

No – Cael

Cael tapped the bottom edge and tried to pick back up with the article again. The pad clouded on its own and Sieffre’s text forced its way up to the surface.

Hi! Can we speak for a moment? – Sieffre

Little bastard’s gotten clever. Cael rested an elbow on the damp bar and rubbed his head irritably before sighing in defeat.

Only if you answer a question first. – Cael

Sure! – Sieffre

What the hell are Tasty Hinges? – Cael

Ah yes! I can answer that! I was curious myself when I reading through the archives. It seems the Manana Corporation brought in a massive wave of new workers who call themselves Gongou, which to them means something like dog pack, or roughly, commune or community of dogs. I am sure it has very proud inferences for them. However, in the Moungren language, their name directly translates to Hinges Taste. Interestingly enough, it would appear as though this influx of new workers was the catalyst for the uprising here. – Sieffre

Is she really sick? – Cael

Well, that is sort of complicated. – Sieffre

I do not appreciate being messed with. If she’s not dying, you can’t tell me she’s dying. Did you say that just to get me here? – Cael

If there is one thing you two have in common, its that you will only respond to a little melodrama. There is something wrong with her, Cael,…

There was a pause in the text, but Sieffre wasn’t done; implying he was struggling for the right words. Cael found that concerning.

… and she’s getting worse. It’s hard to explain. I can only use what she feels from my vantage point. She’s been slowing down little by little for the last few years. The changes have been tiny each time, but for that very reason it has been impossible to convince HER there’s something wrong. – Sieffre

Ilya said she saw Mari faint back during the escape from the jail. Is that a part of it? – Cael

That…

Another concerning pause.

… is has been a recent development. I always seem to be distracted with other things when it happens. She won’t admit it’s a new problem. Always, she blames it on “the excitement” or “being tired” or “hungry.” – Sieffre

What do you expect me to do? – Cael

I felt her heart race when she realized you were here. You two play it cool with each other, but there’s a chance you are the only person she may actually listen to. – Sieffre

So you want me to tell her to go see a doctor? That’s it? – Cael

She may also have been making some poor decisions recently. – Sieffre

That seems about per usual for her. – Cael

She’s taken on a few too many risks at once, this time. In her current condition, I’m not certain how easily she’ll be able to get us out of it. – Sieffre

What KIND of risks? – Cael

It is a rather long story. How about I buy you a drink? – Sieffre

Cael’s levali pad pulsed along the left edge this time and after tapping it, he saw a message from the Flore Bank (formerly the Manana Bank) with a sizable credit amount listed underneath.

Are you trying to bribe me? – Cael

Is it working? – Sieffre

Cael cocked his head in a shrug.

I’m still not sure what you want from me. – Cael

For now, I just need you to look after Mari and get her safely back to the ship. Once we’re on the ship, we can deal with other issues. Together I am confident we can can get her the help she needs. – Sieffre

I already have two tag-alongs to look after. – Cael

Bring them along! I really like Ilya, anyway! And once we get back to the ship, we can take them wherever they need to go. – Sieffre

Cael rubbed at the stubble on his cheek in contemplation.

Deal. – Cael

“Bartender! A drink!”