Monday, August 5, 2013
Hey, I’m back. It’s been a couple of depressing days, but Weln got worried about all the moping and sleeping I was doing and told Dad, who got me back on the anti-depressants. While I’m not all sunshine and happiness by any means, I can at least function again.
We hear from Dusa and Esak every day. It’s hard to see them and not be able to feel their arms around me, but at least I can talk to them. And I have Weln, who tries hard to keep me warm at night. I do the same for him.
I have to admit, I am keeping some sense of emotional distance from Weln. He is so good and so sweet that I’m afraid of falling as much in love with him as I have his clanmates. What is the point of getting close when I’ll lose him too? I can’t stand it. We have sex, we talk about personal things, and we spend as much time together as his work schedule allows, but I refuse to get attached. Losing Dusa and Esak hurts enough. I don’t want to hurt anymore than I have to from now on.
With all that’s been going on, I completely forgot about Commander Nang’s presentation to my fellow Earthers until he commed yesterday. Surprise! It was last night. Weln was covering someone else’s shift in the care facility, so I went alone. It was in the same auditorium where I’d done my presentation to the Kalquorians.
I watched from backstage. I could have sat with Candy and Matt King, who were in the front row. It turns out I’m still leery of the majority of my fellow Earthers, however, so I watched as Nang did his spiel. You know what? He did a damned good job.
He started with the story of how desperate Kalquor had become with extinction looming only a couple centuries in the future. He told them all about the virus that had decimated the population and left almost all their women barren. The Empire had become so desperate for survival that they did something even they found abhorrent: kidnapping Earther women so their culture might survive.
He told them the truth of Armageddon and apologized up and down for his people’s part in it. He showed the records found of Holy Leader Copeland’s knowledge and approval of the explosives beneath the cities. Sobs greeted those revelations.
He also played a vid recorded by Empress Jessica. At first there were boos from the audience as she explained how she had fallen in love with her clan. There were shouts of ‘Whore!’ and ‘Slut!’ and other even nastier epithets.
But there were also those shushing the angry. Someone yelled, “Shut up! I want to hear this!”
The empress explained how she had fought hard with Kalquor’s Royal Council to outlaw coerced clannings. “No woman who does not want to join a clan will be forced to from now on,” she vowed, her soft, high voice going steely. “I will not have it. My clan has vowed they will not allow it as long as any of us draws breath.”
Last, she lifted an adorable black-haired, purple-eyed baby boy in her arms. “This is Prince Wayne, my son,” Jessica said. “This is the future of Kalquor: the child of Kalquorian and Earther. The Empire cannot survive without us. We cannot survive without them. It is time to put our terrible war behind us and move into the future.”
All was silent as the vid ended and Nang resumed his talk. He explained once more that Earthers were in charge of their own futures: that they could go to live on our surviving colonies, move to colonies set up by members of the Galactic Council of Planets, or go to Kalquor itself.
“It is your choice. We will not attempt to convince you to come to us, as much as we need you,” he told them.
Nang was charming and convincing in a way that I had never seen him before. I caught Matt King beaming at him from his seat. Well, well. It seems the commander took my advice and got the Earther rep to give him some pointers on how to win over the hostile majority.
Damned if it didn’t work. When Nang finished, at least two-thirds of the audience applauded him. Many came up to the stage to shake his hand and speak a few words. Nang beamed at them all, listening to their comments carefully and treating every last Earther like a good friend.
Matt must have seen me lurking in the shadows, because he sought me out while I waited to offer my own congratulations to Nang. “Now this is cooperation,” he told me. “Nang did a wonderful job, didn’t he?”
“You’ll have him running for election next thing,” I laughed. “If they do such things on Kalquor.”
“They do. He has told me all about it. Kalquorians sound every bit as underhanded when it comes to politics as we were.” Matt laughed heartily at that.
I laughed too, but more at the mental image I suddenly had of Nang and Matt going fishing together or tailgating at a football game. The uncompromising military man and the shmoozing politico enjoying a round of golf, maybe? Who would have thunk?
Finally everyone drifted off, heading back to their dorms under Nobek guard since it was after curfew. Nang approached me, a self-satisfied grin beaming from his handsome face.
“May I walk you to your quarters, Shalia?” he asked. “You’re staying with your friend Candy, correct?”
“Actually, I’m in Dusa’s old dorm. Weln and I are consoling each other by staying together.”
That turned down the wattage in Nang’s smile, making it tight and unnatural. “I see.”
I sighed. “Walk with me, you overbearing pain in the ass. I’ve missed talking to you.”
I had. When Nang isn’t being a jerk, I like him a lot. His real smile returned and he took my arm.
We walked the Academy’s path like old friends. The air was chilled, but I’d had the sense to wear a jacket. Plus Nang put out a lot of toasty body heat that radiated through his formsuit.
“You’re not cold?” I asked.
“I love this kind of weather,” he told me. “It’s the perfect temperature for me. How is Eve doing, Shalia?”
“She’s getting stronger all the time,” I was glad to report. “She regains more and more of the use of her arm and leg every day. The therapists really know what they’re doing. She actually stood for a couple of minutes this afternoon.”
“I’m glad to hear it. How are you?”
I shrugged. Nang wouldn’t want to hear about how much I missed Dusa and Esak. “I’m myself. Healthy and mean as ever.”
Nang laughed. “You aren’t mean, my lovely girl. I’ve wanted to see you so much these last few weeks, but with everything going on, there simply hasn’t been time.”
“Not much reason, either,” I reminded him. “Especially now that you’ve done your presentation.”
He shrugged. “Who says I need a reason? I just like talking to you, seeing you...”
“Trying to seduce me,” I added.
He grinned, completely unrepentant of his past sins. “Can you blame me? You are a fascinating, arousing woman, and I simply can’t get you out of my mind.”
I shook my head at him. “Flatterer. You are such a scoundrel, Nang.”
“Admit it. You don’t want me to be any other way.”
I laughed. No, I guess I don’t. As much of a rogue as he is, Nang wouldn’t be nearly as interesting without that constant sense of mischief.
He was a perfect gentleman last night though, leaving me at the dorm room I share with Weln with a polite goodnight and bow. “Visit me when you wish, Shalia,” he said. “I very much want to see you.”
Maybe there is hope for that man. Nah, probably not.