Thursday, December 18, 2014
April 5, afternoon (part 1)
There is something about shooting stuff that gives a gal a sense of power. Blasting the hell out of virtual Tragooms, Bi’isils, and all manners of hostile-acting aliens went a long way towards making me feel like my old pre-abduction self.
Oses chuckled a little at the end of my blaster lesson. “You are like a Nobek when you’ve got a blaster in your hands,” he told me. “What is it you Earthers say? Shoot first, ask questions later.”
I was glad to see a little bit of a smile on his face. It comes so seldom in the wake of our captivity. It’s a wondrous thing to see Oses at ease again. “Like a Nobek, huh? That’s a big compliment coming from you,” I said, taking out the simulation charges. I went over the checklist of things to do at the end of a session. Satisfied my weapon was powered down properly, I handed the blaster over to the weapons commander for him to do a final safety check. “How was my score?”
“Not too bad considering you’re out of practice. Sixty-five percent hits with forty-seven percent kills.”
“Damn,” I sighed. “I am out of practice. Can I come in here on my own?”
Oses thought about it for a few seconds. “I’ll get you a special pass, but it will have to be during hours when few of my men are booking the time.”
I nodded my understanding. The room was basically a big vid projector. It presented different firefight scenarios that had been loaded into the computer for training purposes. The system was a perfect tool to give security officers or wayward Earther girls simulated situations of every possible kind. Of course Oses’ men had first dibs. My training was for the last resort of me having to protect myself.
Then again when I consider how often I find trouble, I really do need to practice as much as humanly possible.
“Let me know when I can get in here,” I told Oses. “As often as I can.”
He nodded, his expression darkening a little. Maybe he was thinking about all the peril we’re in these days as we navigate our hazardous way to Kalquor. Or maybe he was thinking that no matter how prepared we are, we can never guarantee we’ll be safe.
I hated seeing Oses look like that. Not for the first time, I wondered how much of an emotional toll his psyche had taken. That something unseen was now stalking me couldn’t be making him feel any better.
I knew Oses’ plate was pretty full as far as his usual workload was concerned. Yet I still decided my friend needed another project; one that he could be certain would protect me and make him feel useful too. Plus it would remind him that he wouldn’t always be responsible for my well-being.
“I’ve been talking to one of the clans on my lottery list,” I said. “I know you’re super busy these days—”
“Names. Locations of where they live and work,” Oses immediately commanded. “Everything you know about them. Forward the files they and the lottery commission sent you.”
Gotcha, you big, over-protective brute.
“Oh,” I said as innocently as possible. “I was going to have Dad Rak check them out, but if you want to—”
I guess Oses wasn’t interested in me finishing any sentences. “I can get information quicker than he can since there is less a time lag,” he insisted. “Nobek Rak will no doubt still do his duty by his daughter, but I can clear this potential clan for you sooner.”
“Okay. I’ll send you all the particulars on this Clan Seot. They do seem nice enough.”
“I’ll make sure of that.” Oses’ eyes were sharp and his tone determined. Can I maneuver this man, or what?
I looked up at my Nobek friend and lover, feeling honest, pure affection for him. He returned the gaze, and his expression softened.
“I will miss you when we part, but I will be glad when you and your child are safe on Kalquor,” Oses said. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I will be relieved to give you up.”
“Because I won’t be in danger anymore,” I said softly.
“Exactly.” He made a face, somewhere between a grimace and a smile. “I am strong, but I am not a young man any longer. This is wearing on me more than you know.”
“I’m sorry that I’ve put you through so much.” I swallowed a lump in my throat.
Oses shook his head. “No, I wouldn’t have traded knowing you for anything. I’ve experienced real joy with you. You’ve even given me a few moments with Betra.”
“But I’m rather high maintenance to deal with all the time.”
Oses barked a laugh. “It’s not all about you, you know. I’m realizing how ill-suited I am when it comes to caring properly for a Matara. “
“You’ve taken very good care of me.”
“It takes more than that.” Oses shook his head. “If I was part of a clan, I couldn’t do my work for the fleet so easily. I’d have to consider every move I make for my own safety, simply because I’d be worried about leaving unprotected those who count on me. I learned that when Finiuld took us prisoner. Your protection was linked into my being there, strong and whole. It was a startling realization to know that giving up my life was the worst possible decision.”
I frowned. “Is it really that easy for you to let yourself die?”
Oses looked at me as if I’d just asked him if he likes sex. “Of course. To preserve the lives of those I care about? To preserve my honor? I don’t even have to think about it.”
“Wow.” I wondered if I would ever feel that way about anyone ... then it hit me that I did. I’d been good and ready to give up my life to keep my unborn child out of Finiuld’s hands. I’d committed heinous acts just for that purpose.
I’d killed. I knew if it came to it, I would kill again.
The thoughts were sobering. I already had blood on my hands. To know I’m capable of murder was not a realization I’d ever expected to come to about myself. Even at the cost of my sanity, I would destroy lives.
“I see in your eyes that dark thoughts are in your head,” Oses murmured, startling me out of my reveries.
“How do you deal with it?” I asked. “How do you think about those you’ve killed and not fall apart?”
“By thinking of the lives I’ve saved.” Oses cocked an eyebrow at me. “Every person who has died at my hands has been a good trade off, in my view. Maybe a few didn’t deserve their fate, but they had to be sacrificed for the greater good.”
I thought of the nameless Earther man he’d tortured to keep me and my baby safe. I’d allowed it to happen for Oses’ and my child’s sake. Had it been a good trade? I honestly didn’t know. All I knew is it had cost me a piece of my soul.
But if I’d had to do it all over again, I would. The instinct to save those I loved best would allow for nothing less.
“Don’t despise yourself for what doing what your heart tells you that you must,” Oses said. “You would have hated yourself even more for taking the other path, the one that would have cost you those who mean the most to you.”
“Better to drown in guilt for the ones you love, huh?” I managed a bitter smile.
“Always.” Oses drew a deep breath. “Sometimes it’s harder to have to be strong. The worst part for me is not thinking on the faces of those I’ve killed. It’s seeing those I protect and knowing my job is not done. That it will not be done until I am dead.” He barked sudden laughter. “I’m beginning to wonder if I’m too old and tired for this work.”
I didn’t like where this line of thought was heading. I felt too morose for a fling, but Oses’ mood was even darker than mine. So offered the one thing I can. Me.
I looked the Nobek up and down and gave him a naughty smile. “Old and tired, huh? Isn’t that a shame. I swear being pregnant has driven my hormones into overdrive. I guess I should track Betra down then, since you’re obviously in need of a nap, old man.”
Oses smirked. “I can wear you out at a moment’s notice, little Earther girl, just as well as that Imdiko pup. Get over here.”