Thursday, January 17, 2013
I slept in really late this morning. I was tired after my dinner with Dusa and Esak. Not that anything strenuous happened! No, all my fears of wild alien sex didn’t come to pass. Quite the opposite, in fact.
First of all, Dusa’s Nobek was not some crazed, feral animal like I half expected. Esak does have this kind of underlying potential for danger ... at least, that’s what my gut says. He’s got the sharpest, most piercing gaze I’ve ever seen. He has a certain way of being in his surroundings as if he’s on guard all the time. His movements are fluid and graceful, but kind of like a predator too. Being around him is like being around a friendly wolf ... you aren’t immediately afraid of him, but there’s a sense he could turn on you if he found good reason.
On the plus side, he’s very easy on the eyes. His face is square, his jaw strong, his eyes large. He’s slightly shorter than Dusa, but that still puts him a head taller than me. He’s not over the top muscled, just very nicely shaped. Yep, another enticing Kalquorian. I think he might be even younger than Dusa, which is kind of making me feel like a cradle robber.
He bowed as Dusa introduced us, his gaze never leaving my face. His voice was startling with its softness. “I am honored to meet you, Matara Shalia. You are lovelier than my Dramok described.”
Dusa grinned at me. “I didn’t have the adequate words to express how beautiful you are.”
I barely restrained the urge to roll my eyes. It was getting pretty deep, if you ask me.
As for how Dusa treated me ... well, it was like we’d never had that crazy moment in the garden. Both he and his Nobek were very polite, like their mommies had told them to be on their very best behavior. Careful even. They wouldn’t even come into my hospital room, choosing to stand in the hallway instead. I soon found out why as we left.
“We have to have our evening meal in a public environment rather than in our quarters,” Dusa explained. The men guided me off the main pathways that ran between buildings. The reason was unspoken, but I knew why they did that: so no other Earthers would see me in the company of the enemy Kalquorians. I appreciated their discretion.
“Why is that?” I asked. The back of the dining hall was ahead. No way I was eating with these two in front of all those people. Surely the P.T. had left by now, but there were plenty of others who would be quick to judge me. I slowed.
Dusa patted my shoulder, apparently guessing my thoughts. “We’re going to eat in a semi-private room. There will be other Kalquorians present, and maybe an Earther or two. There are those who don't mind eating with our kind. ”
I nodded and picked up my pace again. I felt a little bad for the bigotry, but neither Dusa nor Esak seemed affronted.
“To answer your question, there have been accusations from some of the Earther women that Kalquorians are taking advantage of them.” Dusa frowned, and Esak echoed the expression. “This has resulted in the new policy. Without express permission from the Mataras, they are not to be in unsupervised situations with a single man or a lone clan.”
I was relieved to some extent. Now I didn’t have to worry about fending off any unwanted advances. However, I will admit to a tiny bit of disappointment that I wouldn’t be kissing Dusa again. Sex may not be all that great, but kissing ... the right man, at any rate ... was pretty much all right in my book.
I wanted to know more, but I was afraid of offending them. I said as much.
“Feel free to ask us anything, Shalia,” Dusa encouraged me. “It is best to know as much as possible so you are not afraid of Kalquorians.”
“Okay,” I said. “My understanding is that your people coerced ... sometimes outright abducted Earth women before the war. And during the fighting, females were considered spoils of war.”
He pressed his lips together and nodded. “When possible, we tried to seduce Earthers into becoming our mates. But yes, Kalquor’s situation was dire. It still is. We have less than 300 years left before our race goes extinct.”
My mouth dropped open at that. I hadn’t known they were that close to dying off.
When I got over the shock, I asked, “So what’s changed? Why aren’t you just carting us all off to breed with now?”
Esak answered that one. “Our empress. She’s Earther, like yourself. She presented a very moving case against coerced or forceful clannings. She argued until the Royal Council agreed to suspend such actions once the war was over. There are to be no forced clannings for at least the next five years.”
Dusa nodded. “I don’t want a clanmate who doesn’t want me in return. Not even to save my culture. I can’t imagine it.”
We reached the dining building. The semi-private room we went to had perhaps a dozen Kalquorians, and yes, a couple of Earthers. A woman slightly older than myself sat with what I guessed to be a full clan. They looked to be in their forties. The other Earther was a young man, who looked about Dusa and Esak’s age. He sat with a Kalquorian who could have been in his late thirties, if he was an Earther. I was aware Kalquorians lived longer than us and aged slower.
I wanted ronka, of course. I thought I’d be adventurous and try bywes too, but Esak warned me against it with a chuckle that made him utterly charming. “I have yet to see a single Earther like bywes. I’ve heard your people compare it to sewage. I will order some for myself and you may have a bite if you wish.”
We put in our orders. I thought there might be some awkward silences after that, but that wasn’t the case at all. It turned out the men had a bunch of questions for me. They wanted to know all about my work before Armageddon, about hobbies I enjoyed, about Mom’s illnesses and prognosis, oh lots of stuff. I told them about the films I’d done, glossing over the worst of the propaganda stuff and what I knew of Armageddon before it happened, of course. I mentioned how I’d wanted to work my way from behind the camera to in front of it; I’d always planned to go into broadcasting once I had saved the funds to return to college. I was a pretty decent speaker and writer, which was why my productions did so well. I wanted to get more into that realm of vid.
I managed to get a little bit of information from my dinner companions as well. Dusa and Esak both liked to play music. They’d met at a lemathev concert, which was what they prefer to play themselves. From what I could gather, lemathev music consists of a lot of banging on metallic and wooden drums, playing a low-pitched instrument that sounds like wild animals growling, and shrieking at the top of one’s lungs. How that is different from just pure noise I’m not sure. Esak is involved in the drumming, or spenruk ... he says the closest Earther word for what he does is ‘pounder’. Dusa plays the growly instrument known as a trasbu. (My spellings are phonetic, by the way. I don’t know the first thing about the Kalquorian language.)
I didn’t have the guts to ask them if they were bisexual, as Earth Gov claimed all Kalquorians are. It was just too intimate to bring up, so my curiosity will have to go unanswered on that front. They didn’t act in any way that could be construed as blasphemous. They were like very good, longtime friends, and that was it.
We were at ease, the three of us. I really enjoyed just sitting and talking to the guys, getting to know them. They had a good laugh when I tried the bywes. Esak was absolutely right about how foul that stuff tasted. The smell alone was enough to turn my stomach, but I dared to lick the forkful I took from the Nobek’s plate. Then I drank two glasses of water in the desperate attempt to get the taste out of my mouth, choking and gagging all the while.
Dusa laughed so hard he had tears rolling down his cheeks. Despite being utterly disgusted, I had to laugh too. No doubt I looked like an idiot, and the faces I pulled had to be hysterical.
“You did warn me,” I said to Esak, who was holding his stomach from laughing uproariously. “I might actually listen to you next time.”
His hilarity eased, but he looked very pleased. “I’m glad to hear there will be a next time,” he said in his quiet voice.
“Me too.” Dusa seemed delighted.
I was a bit startled. I hadn’t meant to commit to another date, but why not? I hadn’t had so much fun in a long time. My companions were utter gentlemen, interesting to talk to, and ... yeah, they are enjoyable to look at. I will admit to wondering if Esak could kiss as well as Dusa. Who knows, maybe I’ll get the chance to find out some day.
We sat around even after we’d finished out meal, chatting like best buds. We might still be there right now, except Dusa’s com went off in the middle of his story about encountering a rattlesnake the other day. The rattler seemed to take great offense to his boots not allowing it to get a bite into his leg. It kept trying to strike, but its fangs couldn’t penetrate his knee-high footwear. He broke off in the middle of the tale and answered the summons.
“Dramok Dusa here.”
“Yes, Dramok. This is Dr. Nayun.”
The three of us checked the clock hanging on the wall, and my jaw dropped to see how late it was. Had I really been with the two Kalquorians for nearly four hours?
Dusa winced. “My apologies, Doctor. I didn’t realize the time. I will bring Matara Shalia back immediately.”
I rolled my eyes. “Daddy isn’t pleased you’re bringing his little girl home so late.”
As we went out into the dark night, Esak gave me a curious look. “You haven’t spoken of your real father, Shalia.”
I shrugged. “Not much to tell. Mom constantly put him down until he couldn’t take anymore. He left us.”
“You don’t know where he went?” Dusa’s tone was gentle.
“I looked for him when he’d been gone a couple of weeks. He’d moved in with my aunt -- his sister. He told me he loved me and he was sorry, but he couldn’t come back. And he couldn’t see me anymore because that would mean contact with my mother.”
“Your father was afraid of your mother?” Esak couldn’t seem to comprehend that, big bad Nobek that he was.
I sighed. “My mother can be a vicious brute. Or she was, before the dementia took hold. She wasn’t afraid to pick up a blunt object and swing it at Dad to make her point.”
Dusa looked horrified. “She never threatened you though, did she?”
I shrugged. My relationship with Mom was too complicated to cover it in the short walk from the dining hall to Medical. “There were a few physical incidents. Nothing too bad. She preferred to threaten. Her favorite statement when she was mad at me was, ‘I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.’”
Esak sounded pissed off. “Your father should have remained just to keep you protected. He could have done that without harming your mother, who was obviously mentally ill.”
“He should have made her get help,” Dusa added. “That is the job of the family’s head.”
“He wasn’t a very strong man. Mom was the real head of the family.” To forestall any more angry comments from the Testosterone Twins, I told them, “He died a few years ago. I wasn’t told until after the funeral.”
Silence descended over them until we were nearly to our destination. Then Dusa murmured, “I am sorry for your loss, Shalia. You are very strong to have withstood what you have.”
Esak nodded his agreement. I didn’t tell them that I don’t see myself as particularly strong. I simply survived what life threw at me.
Nayun was waiting for us just inside the medical building’s door, his arms folded over his chest, one foot tapping impatiently. I almost asked him if I was grounded.
“Did you enjoy yourself, Shalia?” he asked.
“Very much. But how you guys can eat that bywes crap is beyond me.”
That got Dusa and Esak snorting with suppressed amusement. Nayun chuckled. “That must have been an interesting experiment to watch.”
I smacked myself on the forehead. “Mom! She’s been in the rec room all this time!” I’d just been talking about her, yet I’d somehow forgotten I’d left her there.
Nayun shook his head, giving me his long-suffering parental look. “We brought her back two hours ago. She’s already asleep.”
I squirmed under his gaze. Gosh, he does the disappointed father act so well. “Sorry. I got so caught up talking that I completely lost track of time.”
“We will wish you a goodnight, Shalia,” Dusa said. He and Esak bowed.
“Just a moment,” Nayun said. “Are you and your Nobek scheduled for detail tomorrow, Dramok Dusa?”
“It will be our first full day of relaxation since we got here,” Dusa said. He and Esak had planned to stop by to play me some lemanthev recordings. I was already trying to come up with polite comments to say about how unique and interesting I found it.
Nayun’s brow creased. “I hadn’t realized you hadn’t had full days off yet. I hate to give you an assignment, but Shalia is being released tomorrow. She and her mother will need assistance moving to their new quarters.” He shook his head and waved his hand at them. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure we can spare some orderlies--“
“We’ll be glad to help Shalia and Matara Eve relocate.” Dusa and Esak exchanged pleased looks.
“That would be most helpful.” Nayun seemed relieved. “We had several injured Earthers brought in this evening, and we’re a little shorthanded right now.”
Esak frowned. “I heard there was a major incident. Two Earther groups were battling each other on the outside for supplies, if my information is correct.”
Nayun nodded. “And none of those that are conscious are happy to be here at the Academy.”
Call me self-centered, but I was more interested in the news I was being sprung than stupid gangs trying to kill each other. “So I’m all better?”
Nayun smiled. “You still need to take it easy for a few more days, but yes, you are well on the road to recovery. I need your bed, so I’m kicking you out.”
I grinned. “You can’t kick me if I’m running. Those walls are closing in on me.”
“I know. As soon as you’re up tomorrow, I’ll tell you where your quarters are located. Your mother should still keep to the schedule we’ve established for her, however.”
I have no problem with that. Mom seems pretty happy doing her thing.
Meanwhile, I’ve slept way too late and dawdled over my breakfast far too long as I get all this down. I need to get dressed and call my boys to get our few belongings moved. I don’t feel too bad about Dusa and Esak spending their day off helping me out either. After all, most of our stuff consists of dozens of balls of yarn, and that’s my young Dramok friend’s fault. It's only right he should have to transport all that.