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S p h 1 n X O 7

S p h 1 n X O 7

5/18/2012 9:03:03 AM
[b]Foreword[/b] [quote]Hey all. This is my second attempt at a Halo fanfiction. A larger novel, with a lot more pages and hopefully, a lot more better than what I had before, entitled 'Believe'. I had a lot of fun writing this, and I still am having a lot of fun writing it. I just hope you guys have the patience to slog through my paragraphs and have fun as well! Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way! Enjoy PS: Just to let you know, if you don't read it, I know where you live.[/quote] [b] The Second Matron [/b] [i]This is no war, but a game of statecraft. A game of lies and deceit, treachery and betrayal[/i] - Aristocrat Qaetha Roliemai, Light of Sanghelios, First Blade of Roliem [quote][b]Prelude[/b] The headstone was a simple one. A single, inscribed block, planted into the cold rock of the peaks, where the air was thin. He would've liked that. Nothing ornate, nothing ostentatious. Raw and blunt, that's what he wanted. She brushed dirt off the freshly cut granite. Loss welled inside her. The pain of loss, and the pain of grief. Her fingers traced the clear etching on the gravestone. The embossing formed into letters, and the letters formed into a name. His name. The earth around the headstone was smooth and undisturbed, the surrounding granite natural and whole. There was no body. No body could be found. No body would be left. She lingered over the headstone, water stinging her eyes. For the first time, and the only time. She hesitated, taking in the cold, cold air. She left without a word. --[/quote] [Edited on 07.24.2012 12:51 AM PDT]

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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    7/24/2012 8:18:26 AM Permalink
    "The Criu are sending in a few traders." Alaiya studied the First Matron through the holographic screen. Her face was angular, sleek, shaped inflexibly by years of methodical leadership. Her hair was pinned up by a thicket of jade pins and onyx needles. "When did the Criu start trading?" asked Alaiya. She was in her private chambers; an airy room in the peaks. A ray of light speared in from one small window. "The Criu have always been trading," the First said drily. "Their trading methods haven't always been the most conventional," Alaiya replied edgily. "It's still trading, Second," the First reaffirmed. Her eyes hardened into flint. Alaiya bowed. "I understand." "The Criu will enter your fort in a week. They have nineteen members, all merchants. They will be trading cosmetics and accessories. Their tradesmaster has agreed to report to you on the day of arrival and onwards." "Understood." "I trust your warriors will keep themselves in check." It wasn't a question. "I will personally oversee them," Alaiya confirmed. "You shouldn't need to. They should know their roles." "They will," Alaiya assured. The First's servant guard slithered in the screen's background. The mgalekgolo was an orange hulk of wriggling roots. It swelled inside its armour plating. "I have sanctioned their stay and their allowances. The Criu will know what to do, and all details will be made clear to you as soon as they arrive," the First said. Alaiya asked, "Why are they trading in my -" "They are trading in your fort because mine has enough mingling families," she cut. "In the chance you do become First, I expect you to know what to do. The Third is incompetent, and I am planning her replacement. I do not trust her with the trials of the First, and she has had her time." She might as well as have ordered the Third killed. Matronage was a lifelong position. You remained until death. "Of course." The First steepled her hands. "The Criu are not the most respected of families, we know. They have their uses, but Roliem can do without the attention of catering to them, however pedestrian trading may seem. Word can go around, but I do not want Roliem to be the heart of gossip. Vadam can take that spot." "That could be an affront to the Criu," Alaiya cautioned. "That is foreseeable, but not a major concern. It is not a directed insult in the first place, so if the Criu matrons do take offense it will pass off as a genuine oversight," the First said, "I don't want utter secrecy, just a hushed voice. Crui's matrons have taken their share of disrespect, and they do not mind, not fully." Alaiya knew the Criu matrons. Dark, eccentric, perpetually shrouded the clandestine robe of deceit. The Criu were a lineage of assassins for hire. They had garnered the reputation of turncoats; what they did, and who their allegiances stood with, depended on which side offered more of the life-sustaining fuel; money. Few families would stoop down to barter with the Criu, but they will seldom short of offers; the assassins' contract is one even they will not break. There was one thing, one sacrifice required for an assassination to be carried out. When the contract is sanctioned, the employing family must officially sign the contract, with an original sigil. The Criu themselves would forever remain neutral. "Have they begun their trade routes anywhere else?" Alaiya asked. The First shook her head. Her mandibles were exquisitely formed, Alaiya realised with a pang of suppressed jealousy. The First had the visage of sculpted perfection, and the only mar were the tolls of leadership, hardening the soft clay into an aging ceramic. "We are one of the Criu's associates that extend past business," she said. "Movam is the only other. Aside from assassinations, no other family would deign to go near them." "Of course," "How was the trip with the humans?" Alaiya shrugged. "One of them brought a weapon aboard Preeminent." The First's eyes glinted. "And how did you solve that?" "[i]Appropriately,[/i]" Alaiya said. Her mandibles creased into a smile. "Very well. But Secundus, the cycle is nearing when the decision must be made. See to it that you have made your choice, for it could tip the final result." "I understand." "Good. The Criu should be at your walls within the week. I want Fort Secundus back to normal by tomorrow." "As you say, First Matron," concluded Alaiya. She bowed again to the matron, and then the holographic screen winked out. The projector protruding from the raw granite walls faded into deactivation. Huraii had left a goblet of chilled tea on the tables, along with a fresh change of clothing. Alaiya unbuttoned her hanfu. "So I was right." Qaetha swaggered into the chamber. Alaiya scowled. "So I was right," he repeated, sitting down onto the bed. He watched her undress. "The Criu are coming." "To trade," Alaiya clarified. "And that is all." "I was right about that too. But are you sure?" "There is nothing wrong with the Criu, whatever you might think." She sipped from the goblet, naked, and then began to pull on the new robe. "There is aplenty wrong with the Criu, Alaiya," he said. "Respect might be given, but it will be as false as oil on water. Our men will not leave them alone, you know." "These are merchants, Qaetha. Not assassins." She clasped the robe together, and then headed for the doorway. "Your men better not touch the Criu. This is the last time I will say it." Qaetha jumped to his feet, following hotly. "The Criu -" She slammed the door again.
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    7/24/2012 8:15:06 AM Permalink
    "Could he have been an assassin?" Alaiya patted her pets. They rumbled happily, brushing their heads against her face. "Doubtful. He was poorly trained, if he was." Qaetha watched her caress the massive beasts. "It is dangerous, what you have done," he said. "And what he did was more dangerous," Alaiya snapped. "He was no innocent family member, be assured. It is universally recognised that one does not bring weaponry into delicate matters, or at least one does not draw their weapon unless situations become obviously dire. Apart from the filthy Eayn birds, all other species accept this custom." Qaetha shrugged. "That is true," he acceded. "Whatever it may be, it is over now." The men swept away loose straw and excess dirt. The cobbled ground was uncovered like a prehistoric fossil. There was a line leading to the water pipes built into the fort walls. They worked in silence. There were three peaks on Mount Rol. The tallest was dedicated to the First, and the other two the homes of their respective matrons. While being one collective keep, it was split into three separate forts, all fanning out from the base of the mountain. Fort Secundus was a modest building, constructed into the fabric of the rock, a basic garrison of bricked stone blocks shielded behind a wall. Outside, the paved streets led to the docking harbours, and the rest of the fort's inhabitants. Secundus was tunneled deep into the granite, a series of warrens that housed the higher families. It was a maze of dwellings, workshops, subterranean passages and windowless chambers. It was mined all the way to the summits, where miradors and watchtowers peeked at the sprawling fields beyond Roliem Keep. Aputho stepped out from the portal leading into the fort. He shut the aging ironwood door, squinting. Millions of dust motes, gilded in sunslight, swirled around him. He carried a haunch, and held the meat out to Alaiya. He bowed to her and scuttled away. "You haven't been feeding them," Alaiya observed. "Yes, I have." "They are not vegetarians," she reminded, grabbing Avul by one of his teeth. She inspected his jowls like a prize specimen. The drinol glared accusingly at Qaetha, vibrating louder than a throttled vehicle. Alaiya fed Avul the haunch. It disappeared into his bowels. A whole thigh, enough for weeks, gone as nosh. Tevul sniffed Alaiya's hand for his own meal. The two drinols were eating half their livestock, Qaetha mused. Aputho brought out more chopped meat, strips of fat and blubber. "If you don't feed Tevul and Avul properly next time you send me traipsing off to human wastes," Alaiya reprimanded. "I'll let them eat you. Grass is not good for their digestion." She moved through the stable. Blind wolves pawed her for food. "How animals tolerate you is unbelievable," Qaetha confessed. "There is a lot of practice," she said, staring at him hard. He grunted. "Tell me," she said, walking along the stables. "How has my husband been?" "I have been well." "Do not play with me, Qaetha," Alaiya warned. He laughed, leaning on a post. The sweat on his body had dried into a musky odour. "He is drunk as ever," he replied. "I find it strange," Qaetha continued. "How you manage to dominate a hundred lifelong swordsmen, an entire fort's worth of population, humans on the other side of the galaxy and... [i]drinols[/i]," he emphasised, poking at Tevul's flank. "Yet you cannot control a fickle little... [i]husband[/i]." One of the men behind them cursed as he tipped over a barrel. Rainwater sloshed out. "There is only so much I can scare a husband with," Alaiya murmured, glancing over at the swearing sangheili. "[i]Unlike[/i] swordsmen, who decide to mate with whoever, whenever. You chose me, and I will make you rethink your previous urges." "I did provide the sons, my dear." "You did," she conceded. "Unlike," he pointed out, "Your original husband. How are the boys?" "Excellent cooks, it seems." He scowled. The two boys were stringing tack and folding leather sails with the others in the courtyard, and Aputho was hiding piles of rusted pig iron underneath canvas sheets. He had real blood to do that with the matron standing only thirty metres away. Qaetha remembered something. "News from the First, Alaiya," he informed her. "Something about the Criu." Alaiya perked. "What do the Criu want?" "Trade, I heard." "How did you hear? And trade?" "I stay [i]enlightened[/i]," he said. She kicked at the muddy straw on the ground, revealing a pair of corroded hammers. She flung the tools out of the stable, clattering all too loudly on the cobblestones. "What's this thing about trade?" Alaiya asked. "That's what I was wondering," he replied, watching two men unbundle hay. He closed his eyes and arched his neck into the lucent sunslight. "I thought the First and Third handled those matters. Why are you trading with our neighbours now?" "Don't answer me with a question, Helios." "I apologise," he answered solemnly. Avul swiveled his eye down to stare a him. Qaetha cracked open an eye. The drinol rumbled. "Vicious, he remarked. Alaiya left the stables, dusting her robes. "Are you going to the First now?" Qaetha asked, following after her. "I trust your [i]enlightenment[/i] will hit you soon," Alaiya retorted. She entered the fort, letting her vision adapt to the gloom. A shadowy corridor stretched into the mountain. Glass lamps twined from the craggy granite walls. Carved wooden beams supported the ceiling. "I think I should -" Qaetha started. She slammed the ironwood door. -- [Edited on 07.24.2012 12:16 AM PDT]
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    7/24/2012 8:12:35 AM Permalink
    [b]CHAPTER 3:[/b] There was no sound beyond nature's own. A tranquil unity of oriole squawks, rushing waters, calm zephyrs. There were no pollutant coughs of revving engines, no thrums of shimmering grav-fields. There were no voices heard, no clothing rustled. Everyone was silent. Even her pets, crouching dormant in the stables. He eased backwards, feeling sand grind beneath his feet. He teased them with his spear, shifting it back and forth. He breathed deeply. The air was cold, refreshing. Something screamed overhead. A wave of heat washed into the courtyard, scattering dirt and tools. A landing vessel. He ignored it. He readjusted his footing, shuffling backwards. His eyes flicked between the pair. The two opponents gripped blades and bucklers. They converged, slowly, slowly. He was perfectly still, his form poised and taunt. The opponents tightened, the pincer move locking in. He altered positions, his footwork coordinating with his arms, his hands synchronised with his spear. A fluent symphony of harmonies that his body executed without thought, without rational thinking, moves inculcated into his muscles and his tendons, motions as integral to him as breathing. [i]Whsshhh[/i]. He maneuvered to the side, stepping past the swinging, pronged, wooden weapon. Another whistling streak of brown and he ducked the stroke before it landed. He pranced back, kicking up sand. One of them spurred forwards, blade held back, buckler in front. A jab, a feint, and then a thrust sent him staggering backwards. The sangheili spat, and then both of them refocused with a determined glare. His heart pumped with adrenaline as the stimulants burned his system. He breathed hard. His sweat was a balm to his exertion, filtering the slight winds into a freezing breeze. The opponents spread out to either side, shields in front, blades ready to attack. He let them, willing instinct to become as much of a sense as vision and hearing. He aimed his spear at one opponent, and then flicked his eyes at the other behind. They didn't move. An oriole cried out in the skies. They closed in. He threw himself to his left, slamming his spear behind as he went, feeling it tear against wood. The opponent in front slashed forward, the sharpened tips close enough to his flesh he could feel the air being sliced. He escaped the trap, and then pressed the attack. Left, right, parry, duck he retreated again, and one of them drove forward, and the blade nicked against his forearm. He parried the next stab, and then switched into offense, driving the tip of his spear into the buckler in a muffled [i]thunk[/i] of snapping splinters. He yanked the spear free, sending his opponent staggering towards him. He twisted around the shield and hooked him underneath the jaws in a fluid, precise motion, catching him in the throat with the butt. The sangheili dropped. The next one came, emotion charging his movements. He whirled around the flying blade, and then flurried; neck exposed - hit, and then down to the ribcage, numb the waist, disable the thigh, jar the knee; cut elbow joints if necessary. His opponent lunged, sagging, and he slid to the side, rapping him cleanly across the head with his spear. Dead. Master Aputho howled. He grinned, and the gathered crowd cheered. The defeated pair dusted themselves from the sand and bowed. Aputho stepped into the pit and cuffed one across the ear. He turned to the victor. "A true Helios," Aputho declared. They clasped forearms. "A fine duel," he replied. He pulled off his tunic, baring his chest to the cold air. Sweat lathered into every groove. "Still young, brother. The wives must be impressed." He winked. "Indeed they are." Aputho shambled closer, his wounded eye twitching. He counted out twenty notes. "There," he said, jamming the money into his pocket. "Next time," he huffed. "You'll be paying me triple." The other warriors headed out the gate, stacking equipment. Outside the main fort's stacked stone walls, the ocean beat against piers and wharves. Aputho kicked sand from his feet and left the pit. He followed, the cobblestones still grainy and cool. The shadows had not yet fully fled. He stretched, his contracted muscles loosening. The exercise felt good. He looked up at the sky as he swung his arms. Behind flushed clouds, the three suns began their march to noon. Aputho headed for a patch of sunslight. He dragged in a footstool and plonked onto the damp wood. "Nirall said tonight will be on him if you won," he said. The Helios wiped his scalp with the tunic. "He didn't think I'll win, did he?" Aputho peered up at him, the fluttering eye shut from the sunslight. "No one thought you would've won," he muttered. "Well. I think you all need to have some faith." Aputho snorted. The Helios laughed. "You'll owe me sixty tomorrow. " "Masters!" It was one of the men from atop the stone ramparts. "She's returned!" he shouted. Aputho regarded the parapets irritably. "Who's back, eh?" he called, half-blinded from the sunslight. The warrior glanced back outwards. "Sharquoi!" he hissed. Aputho groaned. "Oh, Ancients" He ran his hand down his face. There was a jumble of movement as warriors poured in from the gate, running back for their stations. Aputho swore. He collared the closest sangheili. "How far?" he demanded. "She's just outside -" She returned. She returned, with fire and lightning, her soft footsteps like thunder, her dark eyes burning depths, her braided locks a mass of serpents, her body clad in the impenetrable robe of hierarchy. She returned, in a furious tempest of billowing rage, a terrible avatar of anger, of order, of authority. She returned, to chain them once again beneath crushing words of obedience and submission. She had returned. She came in through the gate, her servant guard beside. She entered, drawing in the courtyard. The wagons, picks, shovels, gartered boxes, belted crates, metal scraps and exhausted gravity drives. The coiled ropes, wires, wood palings and cut planks. The shafts of timber, chopped pine, trashed welding machinery and used oil tanks. The sheets of grimy aluminum, iron tread plates, tied haystacks, storage bins, waste dumps, rolled fishnets and crustacean cages. The smell of manure, earth, cold stone and dirt, with the faint underlying of the raw ocean. The collective hush of fifty men, silent and guilty. She came in, and ignored it all. She had eyes only for the single individual standing amidst the crowd. He stood there, his chest naked in the sunslight. "My dear, dear Qaetha," Alaiya smiled thinly. -- [Edited on 07.24.2012 12:13 AM PDT]
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    7/24/2012 7:34:38 AM Permalink
    Oh lord, going through my chapters and butchering off excess material like cutting away fat! Feels incredibly good, yet painful, yet still good. Am I going crazy? Chapter will be posted in a little bit!
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  • OftheBloodguard
  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    7/22/2012 2:40:01 PM Permalink
    Will be posting up the third chapter ASAP. My writing urge is been rather dead lately, and I'm getting a bit bored of the story, which probably isn't a good sign. Maybe cause I haven't had anything invigorating to read recently. I have a feeling this novel will get a bit repetitive, but you guys will be the judge of that.
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7
  • Manny

    Manny

    6/29/2012 3:43:38 PM Permalink
    Just finished the funeral scene. Really interesting. I kinda laughed though when I realized the Elite was wearing human clothing lol. But seriously, it was interesting to read.
  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/26/2012 2:12:27 PM Permalink
    Small update. A few pages into chapter 7. I'm trying to shorten chapters now, because mainly it'll progress the story a lot more. As a plus, I won't have to spend an hour reformatting and uploading 20 posts at once!
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/22/2012 7:04:43 AM Permalink
    No, actually. I probably will sooner or later though! Made it past 50 pages! Woohoo. It was a pain, though, going back and deleting all these extra scenes that I now found a waste of reading time. Oh well. Need to cut more to the plot!
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  • risay_117
  • OftheBloodguard

    OftheBloodguard

    6/21/2012 10:39:37 AM Permalink
    Yeah, I can see where you're coming from. It's just that I have no patience, you see. Kidding aside, I can't wait to see where this story goes.
  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/21/2012 1:37:04 AM Permalink
    Yeah, haha, when I first started this I thought up all these ideas to write and after a while I realised you don't exactly delve into the main plot until a while later. While this may be a big flaw, I honestly couldn't be bothered, this is a just-for-fun fan-fic anyway, (although that's not saying I'm not trying!) I wanted to sorta convey a feeling that Sangheili politics and civil problems are quite a bit of trouble at the moment. That's the reason for the massive convo's and all that. Hopefully when this goes into the later chapters you'll be more... immersed, I suppose. And also, hopefully that when this nears its ending this chapter will link up a little bit more as well! I always loved the feeling when something small and seemingly unimportant turns out to be a rather significant chunk of the novel!
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  • OftheBloodguard

    OftheBloodguard

    6/18/2012 7:16:51 AM Permalink
    Sorry I missed this! I thought it'd been a while since I saw this around. Great stuff, dude. Piecing the story together is still a little tricky at the moment. Moar inside information please!
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/11/2012 1:20:06 PM Permalink
    Bit of a daunting read, I think this is my longest chapter out of them all yet. 20 pages of goodness that might not seem too revalent to the story... but there is more to it that meets the eye ;) Please post criticisms and etc!
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/11/2012 12:57:34 PM Permalink
    James squirmed. He massaged his side. The waitress moved away, and he gave an unrestrained gush of relief - and then gagged again as she switched feet. Huraii tapped her thigh, and then gave a nod. One of the doors opened with a throaty hum and a brief flash of orange. Two of the ship's security trundled in. She gazed down back at the human. He was reaching for her foot again, and snatched his hand away. He was almost pleading. "Human, know that you have violated our axioms and committed one of the most maximal crimes. Were this in Roliem Keep, the intruders would have been skinned and their beheaded corpses returned to the opposing family, issuing the declaration of war," She dug in her heel. "Then there is this exception, where the violator hails from a differing species and the onset of conflict calls upon greater contemplation from Sangheilios as a whole." She stepped off the human. The guards knelt, holding his arms and ankles. He shouted something. "Realise, human, were this any of the compliant races hostilities would have already commenced. Your kind has always been a meddler in others' affairs, and you will find your prying nature met by blood and blades on Sangheilios." James flailed frantically. The gut-rending fear, cold and merciless, mangled his insides and butchered his mind. A burning snake of terror coiled around his spine and squeezed his throat, drowning his brain of any emotion except the suffocating, heart-stopping fear. And throughout his torment, was the pounding question, [i]how does she know?[/i] One of the males grinned down at him. His head blotted out the ceiling light. "The Second Matron is gracious, and nothing beyond a small recompense is necessary. When you leave, consider yourself fortunate to return with your sanity, if not your dignity." She stared back down at him for one final time, and then walked away, each footstep a drumbeat closer to his cruciation. Huraii paused just before the doorway. "Enjoy yourselves." -- "The guards disabled every limb, mistress. I could hear the human cry two hallways away." Alaiya typed into three separate pads. Their tangled, mirrored code flickered on her face in a slanted jumble. "The pilot has just left to escort the humans back onto the planet and should return within an hour," Huraii continued. "The violator's screaming - I never knew a creature could have such a throat." "The creature needed a lesson," Alaiya stood and withdrew a bundle of papers. She untied the fibres and laid out the vellum. "What makes you think the human is more than simply an angry relative, mistress?" She tapped the vellum distractedly. "View his age, Huraii. He is no older than the war. While that does not entirely justify my reasoning, there are also other roots of suspicion. He was alone throughout the entire time, and I saw him as well, fidgeting and squirming. Other than that, his pathetic display of theatrics was falsified to the core; his actions were not impulse driven. More probably he was waiting for something to give him the chance to stir." She eyed Huraii pointedly. "My apologies mistress, it will not happen again." [i]The numbers weren't adding up.[/i] Alaiya sighed, flipping through the sheets. "Even if the human was acting on his own senses, then nothing will come of my accusation. But if the assumption is correct, then let those schemers understand Roliem is not to be challenged. Either way, it outcomes in our favour," "Perhaps he was a mercenary?" "Perhaps," Alaiya took a stylus from her pocket. She crossed out one of the lines in a satisfied stroke. The ink glistened. "Set coordinates for Sangheilios. Tell the crew to go into stasis." Huraii put the cup down. "Of course, mistress; shall I escort you to your pod?" "Not now. Roliem is in a mess, and the time is needed. Stay in your room." The stylus scribbled deftly. Huraii left with a bow, letting the door close with a soft click. "Qaetha ought to be missing me by now," she muttered. She broke the nib. [quote] There we go. Never knew posting up a chapter would be harder than writing it, lord. Hope you guys do enjoy![/quote]
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/11/2012 12:56:43 PM Permalink
    The sangheili wouldn't stop. He had a gun, and it wouldn't stop. James prodded the pistol at the waitress' head. Someone had told him to put the firearm away. Seeing how things are unfolding, he wanted to. But it was too late for that. His thoughts raced. [i]Jesus. It's still coming.[/i] "I swear I'll shoot it! By god, I'll shoot!" He sweated. That sangheili was [i]keen.[/i] Was the servant that important? He flicked the safety off. He never actually anticipated pulling the trigger. Hell, he wasn't even supposed to take out the weapon, but then things got hectic, and he had whipped it out of the holster without his brain's consent. [i]Hellhellhell.[/i] He nudged the alien on the ground with the barrel. "Tell her to stop," he whispered urgently. "[i]Do it![/i]" The waitress eyeballed him, and then went back to its mistress. [i]Christ,[/i] he wasn't even its top priority. "[i]Tell her![/i]" His voice was hoarse. He thought he had guts. He thought he would have the balls to shoot someone. But god damn, he didn't know he was such a [i]chicken.[/i] His finger twitched. Instinct clamped its jaws, and he swiveled to meet the rising threat. [i]Oh god what do I do -[/i] Something slammed into him. Physical activity took up a chunk of James' life. Whether it training, or sport, or simple exercise, his body had taken a hell of a good beating, wringing it into a knotted string of steel wire. But the boulder that tackled him, the dark blur that fractured two ribs and nearly ruptured a lung, was the most titanic, physical impact he had ever felt. Stars exploded in his vision. His stomach wrenched, and he gagged reflexively, spitting blood. They sprawled onto the deck together, the thing on top of him breathing heavily in his face. He shuddered, wheezing, and blacked out. ... ... ...And then intuition dragged him shrieking out of his momentary unconsciousness, driving a nail of cognition into his fist. He gasped and swung. Missed. [i]Gun.[/i] [i]I have a gun.[/i] He struggled, the thing on top of him staking him down with a robed elbow. Muted pain hammered in his head. He tried to bring up his right arm, tried to shoot the heady-smelling mass, tried to escape the lock Agony splintered his wrist. He gave a muffled scream, right hand convulsing. It slammed again against the deck, and the gun was ripped away, his fingers nearly dislodging in the process. He nearly fainted again, and something hit him across the ear. The world rung. The weight on top lifted for a moment, and he was flipped over, his body flattened against the floor. A hand grabbed his hair, yanking his head back until his throat felt like splitting. The floor met his forehead in a cold embrace once, twice. And then thrice, thankfully, finally, knocking him into oblivion. -- It was something in his eye that lulled him out of abeyance. James blinked irritably. He was on his knees, face against the decking, arms splayed out on his side. A dull throb sent lances up his wrist. He groaned, and his distorted reflection leered back at him in the purple metal. A red liquid dribbled around his eyes, leaking from... a cut on his forehead. He winced at the realisation, and blinked again. Oh, he's caused trouble. Lots of it. His bosses ought to give him a massive paycheck. If he survived. He struggled into a standing position. They were still in the dining chamber. Actually well, more specifically, he was in the dining chamber. Alone. There was no sign of the other guests. He frowned. The chamber seemed awfully suspicious now, and he was also missing his blazer. His empty holster stood out like a sore on his shirt. And there was blood in his eye again. [i]Oh boy, you've jumped into a pile of hell too deep to swim out of this time, eh?[/i] He peered at his wrist, undoing the cufflink for good and gently easing the sleeve back. It wasn't pretty. The skin was almost black, and there were small gashes where the flesh had split under the force. The bones were out of proportion, and were bruising up to the point where it was as thick as his forearm. He sighed, and limped his way to one of the doors. He frowned a second time and felt his abdomen; there was probably a rib broken as well. Something collared him. James gargled. He thrashed in the grip, attempting to sweep a foot back in a counter. It thudded against an ankle and did nothing. The thing dropped him onto the deck. He lay there, winded. -blam!-, his throat hurt. It was the waitress. Where the hell did she come from? It she stared down at him, and then casually placed a foot on his chest. He gasped painfully. "Hello." James nearly blanched right then and there, and laughed too, at the sheer strangeness of seeing the alien speaking so casually, were it not for the massive hoof-toe on his stomach. She cut straight to the subject. "You tried to kill my mistress." He tapped at her foot desperately. Her eyes narrowed, and then applied more pressure. James trembled. "You brought a weapon." She nudged his holster. "Why?" He gurgled. She took the note and lessened the strain, but didn't remove her foot completely. Did she not know how [i]heavy[/i] she is? "Alright," he started. "I'm sorry for what happened. I wasn't even planning to shoot anyone. I told you to tell your boss to -[i]oh god I'm sorry[/i] -" "You will talk about my mistress with respect, human." He loosened a breath as the foot slackened. "I told you to tell your mistress, to stop. C'mon! I only turned just to scare her, and when you tackled me I panicked, and then you were smashing me, what do you expect? I had to fight back, and I didn't even shoot in the end, and damn, can I also say you tackle like a beast, I think you -" "Silent yourself," It took a second for the realisation that it was simply a mistake in her grammar to dawn on him. The urge to smirk wasn't there. That annoyed him. "You have desecrated the terms placed upon you as you entered the ship. Bringing a weapon is punished by the cutting of all fingers and the removal of the jaws. Threatening a matron is execution and an act of war." [i]Oh hell...[/i] "Hey, I didn't know there were official rules talking about that stuff, there should be some board saying so, so how would I even know?" He was beginning to blather. Huraii shifted her weight. "Why did you bring a weapon on board?" she asked again. "Insecurity..." She sniffed. "Well, I was feeling a bit insecure, y'know? What'd you expect? You guys did kill my parents, and we have been at war for twenty-odd years, so I would say my decision was reasonable?" He coughed. "I'm still really sorry right, and I'm regretting it pretty badly, as you can see clearly, and you didn't have to pulverise my wrist -" "Silent. You talk too much." "Hey, I don't know about your culture and all, but I assure you this aint our declaration of war. I didn't know, and for us we have nothing like similar to this, and really, I hope your race doesn't take this as a provocation to fight us all over again, and really, I'm sorry, and -" [i]"Quiet."[/i] [Edited on 06.21.2012 11:03 PM PDT]
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/11/2012 12:56:03 PM Permalink
    Huraii sidled up to the oculus. She balanced a tray per hand; eight cups in total, bobbing in imperfect unison. She offered them with a gratifying smile, slowly threading her way through the throng, until only she had two left. She glanced around for anymore patrons. [i]There.[/i] That woman from before, alone on the side, and this time without the irritating elder. She approached her with a small bow of her head, raising the proffered tea. The woman appeared uneasy, taking it with murmured thanks. Huraii smiled again. "We do hope you enjoy your visit," she said. The human's expression morphed into one of almost pleasant surprise. "Your English is incredibly good." Huraii latched on to the compliment. "Thank you. I had spent many cycles learning from translations. It does become tedious with the pronunciation." The woman chuckled softly. "We could learn so much from each other, were it not for the past." Huraii attempted optimism, carefully steering clear of that somber discussion. "We still can, of course. I find your cultures fascinating." She didn't really, but it didn't hurt to sound intrigued. She racked her brain for some trivial human knowledge. "Your cuisine is wonderfully exotic. Especially noodles." She laughed. "Your styles of cooking are delicious. And the tea," she sipped the drink. "Is amazing," "The husbands in the keep all prefer wines and spirits, and the youthful generations are losing their taste, only wanting things intoxicating, forgetting what calmness tea brings to the senses." "My husband too; he loved his liquor. He always assured me that only one glass would do, and when I turn around, half the casket is empty" she paused halfway in the reminiscence. She blinked, batting at her eyes, before turning away. "Excuse me," Huraii's next words died in her throat. A blade of guilt sheared into her heart. She moved closer to the human, averting her gaze. The woman blew her nose and coughed rapidly, dabbing at her tears. "Don't mind me, it was just..." Huraii smiled weakly. "I am sorry... for what has happened." She avoided the human's face, glancing down at the planet. A mix between neoteric forgiveness and a matured grudge warred for dominance inside the woman. The former lurched its way forward in a victorious heave, the stored anger submitted beneath cooled acceptance. She placed her hand on the sangheili's wrist, a move Huraii found startling. "It's okay. It was a long time ago. I've come to terms with it." A confession bubbled out of Huraii's mouth. It was an obvious fact, but one that was denied and ignored in the public and confronted and cried over in private. "We have lost many loved ones as well. Many homes are empty in the keeps." The mistress would probably exile her for such an unstable topic breached with aliens. The human nodded in understanding. "Hey!" The familiar bark pounded the temporary intimacy into pulp. "Karen! Get away from it! What are you doing!?" The elder barged into them, banging his stick on the deck. "Stay the hell away from her! Who do you think you are! Piss off!" "No, Yuri, its fine, its okay, really, -" she tugged him back gently. "She wasn't doing anything, it's okay -" Huraii retreated a little. "No! What is it doing, speaking to you?" He glared accusingly at both of them, only with Huraii his visage contorted into murderousness. He pointed his stick at Huraii's belly. "I see you go near Karen again, go near any of us, you watch -" "Dad, I'm fine, don't -" She pulled on his arm urgently. He pushed her away. "You can't forgive these devils Karen! They're all two-faced evils! Are you forgetting Evan! Your parents! Your boy! If it wasn't for them, Connor would be alive!" "They have nothing to do with Connor!" "They have everything to do with your boy! The damned cancers they gave you -" "Yuri, dad, come on she was only apologising, -" "Apologise?" He whirled onto Huraii. "You apologise? You killed my son. Murdered my family, burned my planet," he choked. "And now you apologise?" He spat at her feet. "What have you left us with?" "Yuri, it's -" "Tell me. What have you left us with? Tell me!" He grimaced, holding his chest. "You have nothing to say! And that's what you left us with! Nothing! I have no one left, no one -" "Yuri!" He never finished. The man sagged onto his cane; and then the waxed pole gave out from underneath his load, and he crashed heavily onto the deck. -- James fiddled with his cufflinks. The silver squares wouldn't fit properly. He reminded himself not to buy backwater junk; cufflinks were out of fashion anyway. Damn trinkets. Things weren't going too well. Apart from Yuri's outburst, which only kindled his hope and snuffed it out a second later, there was nothing which gave him the opportunity to cause trouble. What were his bosses thinking, telling him to make a racket on a civilian and sangheili ship? Damn morons. And he thought sangheili were supposed to be over-the-top lunatics who took serious affront to even the most mere of offenses. Why were they so mild? Do something! Why didn't anything ever go according to his plans? Damn [i]aliens.[/i] Damn and damn and [i]damn.[/i] He plastered his forehead against the window, his breath misting on the transparent surface. He doodled in the condensation, and then erased it with a snort. The cufflink banged loudly against the glass. He adjusted the square again. There was someone arguing over on the other side of the oculus. He disregarded it, still tampering with the shabby jewelry. There was a cry. He looked up from his sleeve. What was happening? He peered past a dozen heads, spotting movement. There was definitely something heated going on around there. His hope sparked. He dug through the crowd, squinting. A scream more screams. James pushed past the jostle of bodies, his excitement building, his hands trembling, straying near his holster, before finally emerging into - [i]Trouble.[/i] -- Huraii moved forward, her hands darting to her pockets for medicine. The man rasped on the floor, foaming at the mouth. More humans crowded closer. "What's happening?" Huraii snapped. "I don't know, I don't know -" The woman sobbed, hand over her mouth, "I think it's a heart attack -" "The food was poisoned!" "Alien scum!" Huraii ignored the jibes. She checked the elder's airways, yielding nothing, and then felt his calves and forearms for a pulse, before remembering the pumping arteries were located around the neck for a human. There was no throb below his jaw, and his skin paled as his body failed in circulation. Sangheili didn't call it a heart attack, but this was barely any different to what befell countless people across the keeps. She drew out a sponge. Attacks like these were countered by a dosage of shocking fluid that when percolated into the victim's system would jolt the heart back into functionality. She pried at his coat and shirt, her fingers failing with the zips and buttons, and then abandoning dexterity, she tore open the elusive cotton. Mottled flesh greeted her. "Where is the heart located?" she demanded. The woman fumbled in confusion, pointing at the upper left portion of the chest. Huraii pressed the sponge onto the skin, thumbing it hard so the juices would permeate. Cures were developed hundreds of years ago. Needles had better results, but then she didn't know the human anatomy, and employed something easier. "Hoy, get away!" Huraii was getting sick of hearing that. She continued administering to the man, saturating the body with the precious solution. A cold steel barrel rammed against her temple. -- Alaiya saw the fracas. Witnessed the imprudent actions build up into a contemptible tower of idiocy; from the base layer to the crowning capstone. And now, the director of the construct knelt on the deck with a gun next to her head. A clash with the humans; it was all completely avoidable. It wasn't just Huraii's imbecilic thinking that was aggravating. It was the very idea that a guest, a human, dare bring a weapon into her domain. By right, she had their lives rolling as a ball in her palms, except for one thing. The ball was spiked; they were [i]human.[/i] Alaiya boiled. A pot of fury simmering in her mind, its temperature kept in check by careful maintenance on her part and the impression that this event would pass over quickly. Now, the deceptive presence of placation had melted, and her rage was spilt, scalding her control of thought. She stormed to the oculus, Karquier hurriedly walking in front, leaving her cup on the table. The man saw her. "Back off!" He kept his gun on Huraii, who knelt beside the fallen elder, unattended. "Back the hell off!" "Jesus, put the gun away!" Karquier gave Alaiya a worried glance, but did nothing. She knew better than to intercept. "Last warning! Stay where you are!" Huraii's eyes flickered between the gun's nozzle and the approaching trio. "I swear I'll shoot her! By god, I'll shoot!" Alaiya could care less about his devotion to religion. Let him shoot. She marveled at the consequences. The human pivoted to face her, the barrel aimed squarely at her chest. And then chaos reigned. --
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/11/2012 12:55:24 PM Permalink
    "Undecided," she murmured. "The First does not know. Nor do I. For joining Vadam means a partnership with humanity, and how Roliem will manage is a mystery." Karquier filled the kettles with water. "I suppose this dinner will help the choice, no?" Alaiya had considered if that was why Qaetha had forced her to this trip. Maybe his mind was still intact after all those hits. "It could." There was meat stuck in her teeth. She tongued it. "How do your husbands think?" Karquier asked, handing her a toothpick. "How do yours?" "He doesn't really know. He only fought them four times." Karquier counted the cups, and then produced another mug. "He didn't lose his leg to the humans," she added. "How then?" Karquier made a face. "He fell off a moving car. But if that gets out then he will suicide, whether you visit him or not." Alaiya smiled wryly, before confessing, "Qaetha doesn't like them. He doesn't trust them either. But then, he's trying to change. As for my original husband, he'll start to spit poison the next time he hears about humans. He's already looking green around the cheeks." She probed around her mandibles for hiding leftovers. "That's also a sign of too much alcohol, matron," "I know." The kettle bubbled. "Tea?" she asked. Alaiya nodded. Karquier lowered the kettle on the mugs. Steam erupted from the burnished rims; like a supernatural being tinkering with neat line of volcanoes. "I would say befriend the humans, matron. I offer you my advice with no bias. It will be for the good of the family and state." Alaiya toyed with her spoon. "It is a great risk. There will be many enemies made." "And if not, there will be just as many enemies. Ontom is old, and will stick to its old ways. Let them. Roliem is strong, and we will become stronger still. I heard the Mdama flocked to Vadam before we left." "Mdama is a group of backwater farmers who have felt nothing beyond silt for their entire lives. They have garnered a shred of reputation lately because of their agricultural skills, and there are still many that bring in a larger stock. Movam State, for one," Karquier set the mugs onto trays. "All in good time, mistress. I trust in the matrons." "We will concur," Alaiya replied. It wasn't a reassurance; they will be meeting soon. She scraped the bowl clean. The boys returned, the food served, and without a questioning gap of mindlessness they moved to help Karquier with the tea. Improvement, Alaiya noted. "How are they?" she asked. Lekat responded. "Peaceful. Some of them stalled and did not eat, but eventually their mouths began to work." "Madam Huraii seemed to have no troubles." Buruiu added. "Still hot, matron," Karquier said, passing Alaiya a mug. Buruiu broke off to collect Alaiya's bowl and spoon without a word. He doused them in the sink, the high-velocity water hosing away the grease, and then wiped it shiny and put it back in the shelves. "We'll bring out the tea in ten minutes. Watch until then, hm?" "Yes, madam," they nodded obediently. They were getting better. There wasn't a single stain on their robes, either. Qaetha was wrong. Her boys will become better cooks than warriors. -- [i]Three.[/i] The old man fumbled with his mug. The fashioned clay was ergonomic to sangheili hands, and unsuitable, despite the familiar-looking curves. [i]Two.[/i] Huraii's hand strayed to the tip of her cleaning cloth. [i]One.[/i] The human cursed. The tea spilled. Predictable. She moved to help, a human syllable already forming in her mandibles... "Get away from me!" She ignored him, fussing over him like a child, dabbing away the hot water on the table and his hands and handing him a fresh napkin. He grabbed her arm. "Do you not understand, don't come near me!" A woman beside him scolded him, tugging at his wrist. Huraii snatched her arm away, her expression neutral. Someone rose halfway on the end of the table. Huraii shot him a look, and the human sat back down. She righted the elder's mug and then backed away. Huraii wasn't moved by his tirade. She had been under the matron's service for half her life, and not much could exceed the mistress in terms of patience. She was taught by the matron, personally, each cycle made up of rigid forms and quick thinking. She was also punished, personally, but then punishment usually didn't consist of pain. But then there were a lot of things that were worse than pain. That human on the end of the table was staring at her. Huraii stared back. The human turned his stare to his mug. It was an expansive hall they dined in, with arching columns flowing along the sides of the walls and meeting in a ribbed conjoining on the roof, and lights dotted across the available space in the ceiling. Everything was a series of flexuous contours and moulded curves, painted in matted purple and inlaid with blue and streaks of orange; representing water and coral, a personal touch by the matron to pay homage to Roliem. The old man was fuming. Huraii was tempted to just take his cup away. On the far end of the hall the glass oculus gave view into space. It could've been a great vista, if there wasn't a dead planet right below them, so close you could still see burned out rivers, like veins on a bruise. The old man hurled his cup. It shattered on the deck, tea splashing outwards like melting fingers. Huraii was unimpressed. He stalked off, his cane clacking, the woman after him. Huraii knelt and brushed the remains into her pocket. "Nothing's wrong?" Huraii looked up from the mess, past a pair of shiny leather boots and black trousers, past an abnormally shaped torso, and then up to a human face. For the first time, a human was taller than her. She stood. Now she was taller again. It was that man from before. The one who kept staring at her. "Sorry?" "Nothing's wrong?" the man repeated. Huraii narrowed her eyes. "No? There's nothing wrong." The man seemed flustered for a moment. "Ah, just checking. All good, then," "Yes. All is good." The human stuck his thumbs up and returned to his seat, his face red. Other humans gave him odd glances. Humans, she thought. Strange, strange creatures. -- [i]Hell.[/i] He rushed it. James readjusted his holster again. He rushed it, big time. He didn't even plan what he was going to say, just ran up and blabbered. [i]Hell.[/i] He loosened his tie. He wasn't very good, apparently. Marks had come down. Improve his focus. Improve his skill. Improve his patience. If his pachyderm attitude hadn't won out in the end Christ knew where he'll be now. He guessed they were right. His attention wasn't all that great. The stew they served was drooling, and after two weeks of worker-class rations nutrient bars and protein meals, bits of artificial meat, bread, and fruit, sounding a lot grander than it actually was he had zoned out of the whole scene after the third forkful. He drummed his fingers on the table. He wasn't sure why they put him on this. If they knew he wasn't good, they why was he handling aliens? Hell, he needed to trim his nails, he realised, inspecting his hand. Maybe they thought causing trouble was easy. It is, if you're in a ghetto nightclub. He wasn't in a ghetto nightclub. He was in a luxury cruiser surrounded by aliens, months away from the closest colony, without backup, without contact, and without identification. Causing trouble in a situation like this would probably result in a mass gunfight. And him dying. [i]Hell.[/i] -- "A good dinner?" "One of the humans gave me a performance, but besides that, they were peaceful and ate well, mistress." Alaiya ran a critical eye over the assembly. They huddled next to the oculus, their faces a ruddy hue; raw, reflected sunlight from the nearby star. "They yammer over an event twenty years ago. As I said, these humans are so dramatic." "They certainly do hold grudges, mistress." Lekat and Buruiu trotted past, holding abalone shells and empty mugs. Karquier ushered them into the kitchen, before coming to join them. "They seem to be in a good mood." "Doubtful." "One of them broke a cup, madam," Huraii added. "And my prized set, too." Karquier warmed her hands around her cup. "Didn't bend any of their forks, either. But I was talking about the children." Alaiya eyed one of the women. Hair like that? Terrible. "Good. As I said, time for more than just swordsmanship," she replied distractedly. "Will that concept be implemented throughout the states?" Karquier asked. "It should. And if their matrons have a functioning mind, it will," Alaiya said. "Judging by half the Families throughout Yermo however, I don't know if I should be worried. The smaller states have matrons that can barely string together their own keeps and can't even hold their men in line. The First said they were leaving kaidons to statecraft. That's quite desperate." "Humans apparently let males do most of the governing and whatnot," Karquier said. "I do not care." Karquier glided closer. "How do you think of them, matron?" Alaiya glanced at her for a second. "The humans? There is not much to think about. They have shown nothing beyond placing food in their mouths, and even then they managed to break something." Karquier smiled, blowing on her tea. "Back to the subject - your boys, would you want me to teach them when we return?" Alaiya rubbed her rings. "I do. I'll set up lessons where the youth are taught in droves and any you find in particular, can be taught specially." "Of course, matron," Alaiya sighed. There wasn't much left to do. She nodded at Karquier. "Get Huraii to serve some extra tea." "Showing your hospitality, matron?" she asked. "Not exactly. I want some." Karquier chuckled. "Of course, matron," -- [Edited on 06.21.2012 11:02 PM PDT]
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/11/2012 12:54:32 PM Permalink
    James Regner didn't particularly like sangheili. It wasn't an animosity fueled by vengeance because of the war. Nor was it hatred due to fanaticism of human supremacy. He didn't think himself a racist. He wasn't against cultures. But he couldn't help it. An upbringing of aggression shown against and by aliens wasn't the best method of making him get along with the species that had been trying to purge his own race for the past thirty years. It's not all his fault. But besides the banal excuses and explanations, the simple, sensitive answer was that he was a damn racist. Not like a cultist, mind, bawling for sangheili blood on an altar. Not an extremist. But that's what he was telling himself. What he was doing now was probably bordering on the [i]extreme[/i] side of things. Strangely, at the moment, with an uncomfortable edge, he was feeling a bit grateful to them. It wasn't against protocol, but what he was ordered to do was putting his new swaying opinion on ramming ends. Cause trouble. See what you can do. Gauge their reactions. Everything must be recorded. [i]Cause trouble.[/i] He sighed. He couldn't do much at the moment. They had just been ferried up in a lavish little shuttle, heaters and lounges all, and now being taken through an umbilical into the cruiser's belly, entering into a classy hall of dark purple metal and orange embellishments. Keep an eye on Yuri Bowden and Karen Bowden. And cause trouble. He could do that. Not the latter, but the former, yes, he could do that. The old bugger was a tempered bastard, and an ugly one at that two. Two eyes and a mouth suffocated between rugged creases. Karen, his daughter-in-law, and one of the survivors from the Harvest Incident, wasn't too far behind in the aging process either. He wasn't sure why they were targets of suspicion, but he didn't question. Their footsteps echoed throughout the chamber. He bumped into someone. "Sorry," He steadied the lady. "It's okay, dear." Their leather soles clacked on the deck. The ship smelled like iron, soap, and stale air that had been recycling for months. There was dissipating water along the floor and walls. People had been scrubbing. It was a good, ship smell. Wouldn't compare it to cologne but. "Please seat yourselves. Food will be served in a moment." The sangheili waitress gestured at the stools. On the far end a glass oculus took up the entire wall, a square of dotted blackness showing through. He took his place on the far end, with a good view of the whole area. The Bowden couple sat in the middle. The hard seat was cold on his butt. He checked the studs on his blazer. It couldn't be too tight, or people might be able to discern a familiar lump strapped to his side. He shook the composite grip, making sure it was secured, and then poked the leather holster lower down his ribcage. It was a defensive option if things got really ugly... and a useful tool for causing some trouble. -- Lekat glanced ruefully at the broken arum. It was a tough mechanism, a cluster of concentric orbs and circles nestled in tight formation. How mother had managed to crumble the entire ornament with a single, precise jab of her finger was beyond him. It was showering into the waste chute before he could blink. Buruiu tipped the final mixture into the shell, under the cook's guidance. She nodded approvingly as he emptied the pan, and directed him to the door. It was a customary dish, and an accustomed meal to many Roliem. The basic principles were widespread, but how it was presented and treated, made the delicacy an anomalous rush of zesty goodness, a solitaire among many competitive compeers. It was a glutinous paste of rice, congee, sweet potato and maize, spiced and then while cooling, coated in spun yolk and pasted fats, resting snugly in a blossom of sliced meat, and then heated again. All this was displayed in the former shell-home of an abalone. The oceanic piquancy was a pleasurable enhancement; all in tribute to Roliem's familiarity with the coast. The cook placed the final shell onto the tray. "Matron," she announced. Alaiya waved Lekat and Buruiu forward. "Huraii is outside. Not a word." The pair lifted too shells each, and then filed out the entrance. The doors closed as they padded into the chamber. The cook switched on a holographic panel from the table. Ventilators sucked out the smoke and grease and fanned the kitchen until it was somewhat breathable. Alaiya sat down beside the table. The cook handed her a bowlful of the food, the viscous rice wobbling like jelly. She stabbed a spoon into the mix. "The children were attentive?" Alaiya asked, scooping at the maize. Karquier laughed. "Very attentive, matron. They have a knack for this. Perhaps one day they will be the teachers, hm?" "One day. Qaetha is stubborn, and rages when he sees the men cook." Karquier shut the hologram. "Husbands are hard to change. I find it no surprise with Qaetha. But the original one, is he still an aching?" Alaiya nearly bit the spoon off. "I do not know why I married him." "I daresay you weren't as smart as you are now." Alaiya puffed her mandibles. "Rising from servant to matron does tend to make you use your brain." "What does he do now?" "He drinks." Karquier shrugged. "War leaves a potent aftereffect, matron." "Let him sour in his drink." She took a mouthful of the rice. "Your husbands are still fine from the war. Mine is still in care, wondering if dying is preferable to getting a synthetic." Karquier shook her head. Lekat and Buruiu trundled in, nodding a positive report, and then left again with a fresh batch. Alaiya chewed thoughtfully. "I should go and help him decide." "Maybe that will work." She rummaged through the shelves, picking out plastic satchels. "What did he lose?" "His leg. The medicals have been keeping him out with narcotics for weeks. He still doesn't know if his leg is worth his life." Alaiya nodded. "I will definitely go and see him. Some men," she said, nibbling an elusive grain. "Need to review their ways." Karquier laughed again, opening the satchels. A sharp, dry smell of preserved tea leaves invaded the air. "Enough about him. How is -" she paused as the boys entered and left again. "How is governing going, hm?" "Once your ears manage to filter out the nonsense, you'll find out your eardrums have ruptured. It will take a while for Sangheilios to return to a single global entity. Kaidons are still bickering, but Vadam State, as foreseen, is emerging as the new head of power." Alaiya scratched her neck. "But, as you can also foresee, that has left thousands furious." "Ontom must have burst a vein," Karquier said. "And a few others too. The Wattinr Lineage?" "Hasn't said a word. The Sroam Family accepted the new ways," Alaiya admitted. "Their kaidons have already publicly sided with Vadam. And the Chavam, they were quick to join as well." She tossed her hair. "They finally spoke up. Their family had kept in the shadows since their Arbiter disgraced the rank." "A long while, yes." Karquier spaced out a number of glazed mugs, the thick ceramic glossy in the light. The sculpted clay was like sand licked into form. She evenly distributed herbs into each. "And what of us, matron? Who do the Roliem side with?" she said carefully. There it was. No one had posed that dilemma to her yet. The question had been asked to the First Matron countless times, as she was associated with statecraft activities, and how Roliem operated as a whole. Alaiya, the Second, dealt with the foreign; any problems or relations with an outside species. But she knew the predicament was coming to her, no matter what position she held. A spike lodged in the back of her head, tunneling further to the forefront with each passing cycle. Alaiya, after ascending to the matron status, had been shoveling away any signs of hesitation in her character a gaping flaw to see a matron indecisive. But then all that excess material came rolling back down, and her doubt sat squarely on her shoulders.
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/11/2012 12:53:48 PM Permalink
    [b]Chapter 2:[/b] Lekat grunted at his arum. He prodded at the wooden ball, willing one of the spheres to move. It clicked sideward with a tick. He grinned, and then tapped at another of the polished orbs. It didn't budge. He shook the arum. The evasive gem clattered side. The veneered surface of the ornament was alight with condensation, and he dashed it away with his hand. He shook away the droplets of water, before wiping his nose and resuming the puzzle. The varnish on the spheres had a silky, plastic texture, like amber. Buruiu groaned over the stove, ladling at the rice. He turned up the temperature, and poured more water in. Steam erupted. "[i]Blood,"[/i] he swore. Lekat glanced up at the curse. Water sloshed out onto the table. Buruiu hastily lapped it up with a cloth, swearing as his hand burned. He didn't care. A raw hand would be nothing compared to a mother's rage. "Where is the cook?" He stood and tucked away the arum. "To the hells if I know," Buruiu squeezed the cloth over the sink, and swore again. "She's not helping us, so why does it matter?" Lekat went to the window, checking if the shuttle was returning. There was nothing beyond stars and the dead planet. "We might as well call for her, or it'll be too late." "I would say I do not care for cooking anymore, but I will probably die. Go find her." Buruiu dried the table. "Later." "Blood, Lekat, do not make me -" Lekat laughed. "Lekat -" Buruiu warned. "Lower the temperature, no more water, and let it simmer." The cook smiled at them from the doorway. Buruiu saw her, and bowed swiftly. "My appreciations, madam," he said. The cook left. Buruiu went back to the rice. "I swear, brother, when we are home, you better start training quickly," he advised, popping the lid onto the stove. Lekat chuckled again. "Should I ask why?" "Because," he said slowly. "I will beat you so badly that mother herself will interfere." -- It hung there, in the blackness of space, filling up the void where the stars did not. Like a jewel in the darkness, a haven for life and a point of succor. Large as they may be, it was only one of many, like a sphere splotch of pigment on a blank sheet of canvas. And they were toned to perfection; threaded colours, swirls of delicate blues and greens, balanced against a bland surrounding. Until they dried away their luster, and flaked away into a peeling scab. Like this one. It was a mosaic of filthy browns and black smudges. The sun exposed a rotted crescent of the planet, the other side hidden in shadow. It was entire in its corruption, its surface blistered. The threaded colours were sullied and the swirls were marred into a tainted smear. But unlike scabbed paint, scabbed planets were not so easily forgotten. At least to humans. Huraii folded away the human clothing, stowing them inside a plastic casket and then dropping it in a corner. She bustled off into the kitchen, returning with a glass and pot. Alaiya's cabin was a small compartment on the edge of the shuttle, directly attached to the kitchen and through that, the cockpit. Huraii slid open a drawer, taking out a handheld mirror, and looping it around a finger, grabbed another casket. "Apologies again for the lateness, mistress; the pilot has assured me that the [i]complete[/i] record of H'chovak's album will be present next time." She laid the casket on the cabins bed, placed the glass down onto the table, poised the mirror to best reflect Alaiya's disapproving face, and then pulled out a stringy wire mesh from one of her pockets, wrapping it around the rim of the glass. She plopped a bunch of herbs onto the net, and then poured heated water, leeching the herbs' flavour. "No matter," Alaiya studied her appearance in the mirror, and then reached for the tea. Huraii snatched the mesh away, tying it into a bag and enveloping the sagging ball in a tissue and pocketing it away. "My mentor was never as lenient," she added, raising the glass. "You are most gracious, mistress." She tapped the hologram panel inset beside the door, and from steel ventilators in the ceiling, freshly recycled air gushed outwards. She kept the mirror positioned the whole time. Alaiya turned back to the window, observing the planet below. "The surprise of religion-driven acts is beginning to wear off on me." "It's been committed all throughout history, mistress." Huraii disappeared into the kitchen again, placing the mirror back into the drawer on the way. She returned with a full pot, steam curling from the ceramic spout. "Yes, and once again we list down this disaster due to the cause of fanaticism. When will the men learn?" Huraii moved to the bed, bending down and pressing a lock of her hair and then the tip of a fingernail into the opening of the casket. Purple winked on the chrome lock. "Perhaps this time will be the last, mistress." "Kaidons will never change. Remember that. As many reasons as they can gabber out, the blade only symbols pain beneath the layers of prestige. If the hilt is still clipped to their belts, then people will die." She sipped. Huraii undressed, pulling off her hanfu and then the rest of her robe. "We cannot change instinct, mistress. There is only so much the matrons can do." She unveiled a servant's array; embroidered tussah, cotton trims, dyed sable. She fiddled with strings and tightened laces. "Instinct is a primal need, one that can be disciplined and controlled. The men kill for unnecessary reasons, and half the time they kill for no reason." "Only time will tell, mistress. As you've said, a species with a mind will flourish, not a blade." Huraii patted down her sides, and then fastened the jade buttons lining the side of her body and running down to her knees. "They must work in cooperation, not isolation. Mental skills cannot defend physical assault." Huraii scrutinised herself, moulding the cloth to her curves. Gods forbid oversized, loose wear. She combed at her braids, loosening the whole lot and letting it tumble down to her shoulders, and then pinched thin strands with strips of black silk. Outside, the hull of the [i]Preeminent[/i] blotted out the stars in a merciless wave of manufactured purple alloy. They entered one of the docking hangers, and powered down in a moan of cooling engines. An umbilical uncoiled from a portside hatch and connected to an airlock. To the shuttle's stern, containment fields hummed back on, and gravity was restored in the hanger. "Second Matron, we have docked within [i]Preeminent.[/i] The humans are now able to depart, as are you." Huraii finished, touching up her eyes and jaws. She looked at Alaiya for permission to leave. Alaiya nodded. "I want the humans filed out to the eatery immediately. I do not want their bumbling stupidity in here." She rose as well, going to the doorway. "They shall dine in an hour." -- Lekat jumped at the ship-wide broadcasting. Mother was coming. Buruiu smacked him across the head. "Put that away! Have you laid out the shells yet?" He left the arum on the table, and then hurried to the aluminum sink. The shells were swabbed in oxidising chemicals and rinsed, and he fished them out of the soapy water. He put them out on trolleys to await filling. Buruiu drew a knife and prepared to do battle with a haunch of meat. "Ladle the rice. Just spin it around, yes?" "I know how to do it." "Of course you do," he said, slicing at the pale, pink flesh. "We always knew you were the better chef." It wasn't a compliment. Lekat dabbed at his scalp. It was sweltering, with the acrid chemical tang of cleansing products, burnt rice and cooking meat. He whirled the rice around, freeing the globs of clotted grain. Buruiu was trying to look busy dicing the haunch, and he still had the rice to spoon. Mother wouldn't have much to complain about, he realised. This revelation would shock him for the rest of the day. "Lekat," "Mhm," Buruiu skimmed the knife along the chopping board, and then said, "Do not say I haven't warned you -" He grinned again. "If this is about before, you already have." "And," he continued calmly, "Never say I am not a generous soul -" "I have complete faith in that you will aspire to beat me most vigourously, brother." "- but your arum is still on the table." Lekat paused. "Blood," "Indeed." Lekat scrambled over to the arum. Ancients protect him, he was going to die. Buruiu looked nonchalant. He was frantic. "Buruiu! Where can I hide -?" The door slid open. "Mother!" --
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/7/2012 10:03:22 AM Permalink
    Thanks guys! I think I've just been inspired to get over my not-writing-phase. I've got a load of things to do at the moment, but I'll try to squeeze some time out to write more and upload! BELIEVE!
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  • xAvery Johnson
  • blade246

    blade246

    6/6/2012 10:59:14 PM Permalink
    I love your novels and am awaiting more! I have been quite in active for a while now (at last compared to what I used to be) and have probably missed a lot of great works in this forum.
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  • S p h 1 n X O 7

    S p h 1 n X O 7

    6/5/2012 8:51:24 AM Permalink
    Sorry for the delays, I'm still recovering from the epicness of E3. So many new things, so many new story ideas! ARGH, MIND OVERLOAD W$^&#
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