Monday, January 26, 2015
April 17, part 3
Oses stared at me as I got up. Then he looked at Betra. “You ... how did you know?” he asked.
“First things first,” the Imdiko said. “Hand it over, Commander. Now.”
Oses reached into a pouch attached to his belt and withdrew a golden tapered tube. I recognized the Ofetuchan phase gadget. My heart gave a little flutter to see it again.
The Nobek gave it to Betra. He seemed at a loss for words, except for one. “How?”
Betra gave him a sad smile as he pocketed the phase device. “You left a piece of your uniform in Shalia’s closet,” he said. “I went into your quarters and found your uniform with the torn insignia. I also found Shalia's missing blouse.”
Oses’ shoulders drooped. “I wondered where I’d torn that uniform.”
“I know there are more important questions to ask,” I said. “But what the hell were you doing in my closet?”
He wouldn’t meet my gaze. “Stealing the blouse, of course. I thought if I kept something of yours close to me, the compulsion to constantly check on you would let me go.” He swallowed hard and finally looked me in the face. “I’m so sorry I scared you these past weeks, pet. It was the last thing I wanted to do.”
I had nothing to say to that. I couldn’t excuse Oses, but that he’d been lurking around the way he had told me something had gone really wrong with him. I couldn’t berate him. Besides, I wasn’t mad ... just scared as to why he was acting the way he was.
Oses looked at Betra again. “So that’s what gave me away? A little piece of a patch?”
The Imdiko shook his head. “Not really, although it put me on your trail. I’ve spent the day chasing my suspicions.”
Betra revealed to Oses what he’d figured out. The bit of red fabric could have come from a Ground Forces foot soldier’s insignia as he’d told me ... or a security officer’s Fleet uniform. When Betra realized that, he immediately thought of Oses.
“You were Shalia’s sworn protector on the Ofetuchan ship,” Betra said. “You were her Nobek. That’s not something a man like you can turn off just because you got rescued.”
Oses nodded. “I couldn’t get rid of the fear that I’d fail her again ... that she could be abducted right under my nose. I wanted to be able to check on her, to make sure Shalia was safe. I wanted to be able to get around unseen to pinpoint hidden threats. And I didn’t want everyone to know I had become obsessed over it.”
“Which is why you kept one of the phase devices and tuned it to your biology.” Betra patted his pocket where he’d put it. “You turned in all the rest of these to Captain Zemos. I commed him to find that out, to learn how many he had in his possession. He said there was a bunch of limited phase controllers, which was used by the imprisoned crew and security. Then there was the main one that you gave him, the one worn by Finiuld that permitted access to his entire ship. You never gave him the female Ofetuchan’s device. Zemos wasn’t aware there was a second one that had full phase capability. The only reason I knew was because Shalia told me about it.”
“I don’t remember telling you about that,” I said. “And Oses, you told me you turned in all of them!”
The Nobek’s gaze lowered in shame. “I lied.”
Betra turned to me. “Shalia, you told me about the second one while you weren’t entirely lucid, when we first got you back. You sometimes relived what happened to you while you were a prisoner. You kept saying, ‘I can’t get the other phase to work. I can’t get it to work. Oses says the controls for this one must be in Glidas’ quarters.’ You carried on about it quite a few times.”
Oses hunched his shoulders. “Before we left the Ofetuchan ship, I found the female’s room and control board for her phase device. I knew I was doing the wrong thing by keeping it, but it seemed more important to guarantee Shalia’s safety.”
“But why did you keep appearing?” I asked Oses. “Why did we keep seeing you ... or a shadow version of you?”
“Either there is a technical glitch or a distance parameter that we occasionally overreach,” Oses said. “The phase usually seemed to fail when Zemos’s destroyer fell back a little more from the transport. Since the Ofetuchan ship is on his vessel, I have to assume it’s a range issue.”
“Is that what happened that day when we were scouting locations for our dance club?”
He nodded. “I realized I was suddenly visible and that one of your companions saw me appear out of nowhere. I raced back and forth to keep from being identified until the phase took hold once more.”
“You showed up in Candy’s room one night,” I said, still trying to answer all the questions I’d had these past few weeks.
“Looking for you. When I didn’t find you in your room, I figured you were with her or Betra. I checked Candy's room first since it was closest.”
Betra’s expression was incredibly sweet. “You need help, Oses. You need to consult with Dr. Feru or one of his staff.”
“I already talk to Feru regularly. What I need is to be taken off duty. I am not fit for my rank any longer,” Oses responded. The only time I’d ever seen him more despondent was when we were prisoners.
“For being over-protective of a pregnant Matara? For being traumatized by seeing her threatened day after day and not knowing if you could get her out of there?” The Imdiko shook his head. “I think you’re wrong. Maybe Captain Wotref and Dr. Feru will insist on you taking some time off for more intensive therapy, but I can’t see you being stripped of your rank or position. The worst you’ve done is stolen a piece of alien technology and scared some people.”
Oses glowered. “All I can think about is how I must not fail in keeping Shalia safe. How can I be trusted to keep a ship secure when she’s more important to me than my job?”
“You seem to be doing fine with that,” I pointed out. “You’ve been pulling double shifts as well as constantly checking on me for weeks now. Talk about taking multitasking to the extreme!”
Betra grinned. “She’s right. You’re essentially doing the work of two men, sometimes three.”
Oses wasn’t mollified. He looked more humiliated than he’d ever managed to make Betra feel. He eyed the Imdiko. “How did you detect me when I came in here?”
“Captain Zemos again. I checked his reports on how he tracked the Ofetuchan ship. The sub-space field was disturbed by that vessel’s passage, which the destroyer’s motion detectors were able to pick up. I was able to do something similar with my handheld settings and a detection grid emitter.” Betra nodded to a small cube that he’d placed on a shelf prior to getting into bed with me. Candy would probably love one for her next ghost hunting foray.
Oses gave him an impressed look. “You would make an excellent security officer, Betra.”
Betra waved him off. “I prefer taking care of people. Like I’m going to take care of you.” He got that domineering tone he likes to use on me when we have sex. “Commander, you and I are going to Dr. Feru first thing in the morning. It's time to discuss this matter and start a new course of treatment. With his help, we’ll approach Captain Wotref and find out what has to happen next. From there, we’ll take it one step at a time until you’re back to your old sweet, smiling self.”
Oses had never looked anything like sweet. I still got the impression he was touched. “You’d think we were clanned, Imdiko.”
Betra swallowed, as if he’d just gotten slammed by some great emotion. He still sounded demanding, however. “Yes, you’d think so. Be warned, an Imdiko is never to be crossed when it comes to the welfare of his clanmates. He will take on even the toughest Nobek in that case. And Oses ... the Imdiko will win.”
“I see.” Oses almost did smile then. “All right, Betra. We will see Dr. Feru in the morning. And ... and thank you.” He then turned to me. “Will you ever forgive me?”
“There’s nothing to forgive,” I said. I went to Oses and wrapped my arms around his waist. “No more than you guys had to forgive me for hiding in the closets after I was rescued.” I smiled up at the Nobek. “You’re still my hero. You always will be.”