Thursday, August 20, 2015
July 11, later (Part 1)
Oses’ office door was open when I showed up. The instant I appeared in his doorway, he shoved his work to one side and stood, his feral face going savage. “What’s wrong?” he growled.
Boy, talk about someone who is ready to jump in front of a bullet for a girl. Just one look at me and the weapons commander geared up to kick some ass. I swear the muscles in his scarred arms swelled like balloons. Gotta love those sleeveless uniforms. I was turned on and freaked out all at once.
I also felt kind of bad for verging on hysterics. Oses can’t stand to see me endangered. He nearly had a breakdown over it. I fought to make myself appear calmer.
“Maybe nothing,” I said in the most sensible tone I could muster. “I got a weird message, and I’m probably reading all sorts of stuff into it that don’t belong.”
I had loaded the message into my handheld computer. I brought up the short and not-so-sweet text for Oses to read.
“Nang. The Dramok who fixated on you and may be Anrel’s biological sire?” he mused. The crease between his brows deepened and then he glanced at me shifting nervously on my feet. “Shalia, sit down. You walked here all by yourself?”
I knew I was probably in trouble for that, but in my panic I hadn’t been thinking straight. I perched on the nearby chair. “I know, it was stupid given my condition. I flipped out. I didn’t even realize I’d done it until you said something.”
He raised an eyebrow at me. “Adrenaline is a wonderful thing in an emergency, but this doesn’t qualify. You’ll probably be weak as a baby in a few moments.”
That made me think of Anrel. “Oses, can Nang make trouble for me and Anrel? That was my first thought when I saw the message. What if his duties ended and he left Earth? What if he’s headed for Kalquor?”
Oses came around the desk and knelt at my feet. His hands, as big as my head, cupped my face. “Even if that is the case, he’s months behind us. If he’s headed home, it will be nine months before he gets there.”
“So I got worked up over nothing,” I said, relaxing. “I guess I’m so used to one emergency after another that I’m jumping at shadows now.”
“I didn’t say you shouldn’t be alert,” Oses said. He frowned, his gaze going distant as he considered. “It could be nothing. It could be someone thought you should know that something happened to this Nang due to your past association with him.”
“I thought of that possibility myself,” I said. “If I knew who sent the message, that might help.”
Oses got up and propped himself against the desk edge. He picked up my handheld and scowled at the message. He tapped in a few commands and scowled even harder at the results.
“What?” I prodded.
The big Nobek gave me a smile that was probably supposed to be comforting. With that fierce visage, he doesn’t do comforting well. “It’s probably nothing. Best to be sure though. I’ll make some inquiries to Earth and see what I can find out.”
“Tell me what you’re thinking, Oses,” I said. “Don’t try to protect me by acting like it’s nothing when it’s something. I’ll think the worst if you don’t share what’s banging around in that head of yours.”
That got me a real smile, one of respect. “Always ready to face the dark, aren’t you, my pet? As I said, it’s probably nothing. I’m being an old, suspicious Nobek.”
“But the com frequency this came from has been scrambled to prevent tracing it. I can tell it came from Earth, but not specifically where on Earth or who sent it. Someone doesn’t want you or anyone else to know he sent it, but it was important enough to him to get you a message that he did it anyway. This makes me think it’s a warning of some sort.”
I swallowed hard. “Like Nang has been re-assigned to Kalquor. That maybe someone thinks he’s still got an urge to see me.”
“That could be.” Oses reached over to caress my face. “If that is the case, we’ll find out. I’ll see to it that safeguards will be in place to keep him from you, if necessary. You won’t be left without protection, pet.”
I started to feel better about the situation. “Thanks, Oses. My biggest worry is that Nang might find out that Anrel could be his daughter. That he’ll try to push the issue.”
The weapons commander’s face darkened. “There is no issue. No matter the biological status, he has no claim on either you or Anrel. Both of you will be kept safe.”
I was mostly reassured by Oses’ assertion. However, a little part of me was reminded that I’d been in danger before, danger that a number of destroyers and Kalquorians hadn’t shielded me from. If Nang was heading back to Kalquor and wasn’t ready to give up his hopes that I would be a part of his life, I needed to know I could keep Anrel secure. Somehow, I would have to up the odds in my favor.
I wish I had a clue on how to do that.
Before I could ask Oses’ opinion, Betra walked into the room staring at his handheld. “Hey Oses, on that little escapade we were planning—”
“I have a visitor, Imdiko,” Oses said in a warning voice.
Betra looked up and his mouth dropped wide open to see me. “Shalia! What are you doing here?” He rounded on the weapons commander, his expression turning angry with accusation. “Did you bring her in here?”
“I came on my own,” I said. “I got a freaky message and acted stupid.”
“I should say it was stupid. You know you shouldn’t be exerting yourself that much. Wait, what freaky message? What happened?” His mind was going a mile a minute, trying to catch up to the shock of my being there.
“What is this ‘escapade’ you two are having?” I countered, curiosity overriding my worry over my liaison catching me out and about.
Betra reddened and turned to Oses for help. The Nobek looked amused over the whole affair.
He waved Betra to the seat next to mine. “I’ll catch you up on the latest, Imdiko. Right now, it’s nothing to be worried about.” I noticed he stressed the words ‘right now’.
He showed my liaison the com message I’d received. Betra looked as confused as I felt, as well as a touch alarmed. “Neither of you has any idea who would send this?” he asked.
“Ideas aplenty, but to find out for sure I’d have to talk to people who don’t necessarily want to talk to me,” I answered.
“We’ll discover what is going on with this Dramok Nang soon enough,” Oses said. “We’ll reach the wormholes in two days. I’ll com the Atlanta site where he was last stationed and get a report. If he and his clan have been recalled to Kalquor, we’ll know well ahead of time.”
“I’ll com my dads,” I said. “Whoever sent me that message seemed sure they know what’s happened or is happening.”
“I wonder if he found out you were pregnant,” Betra mused. “If that’s the case, he may have said something in your informant’s presence that worried him.”
I shook my head, thinking of Anrel. Would Nang want to see her? Would he try to insinuate himself in her life, believing he was her father? If so, what could I do about it?
Oses tugged gently on a lock of my hair. “Measures will be adopted to keep you and the baby safe, Shalia. Don’t doubt that for a second.”
“I don’t,” I answered. “But nothing is guaranteed. Can I carry my blaster around on Kalquor?”
Betra muttered an oath. “Are you that afraid of this Nang?”
“He was obsessed,” I said. “When it comes to Anrel, I don’t want anything left to chance.”
“Not just anyone can walk around in public with firearms. Only police, security officers, military, and people trained in weaponry with a compelling reason,” Oses told me. “You would be able to keep your blaster in your quarters with no problem, but locked away in a safe place where Anrel cannot get to it.”
“Well duh,” I said. What kind of moron wouldn’t keep a dangerous weapon out of the reach of their kid?
I was ready for a change of subject. “You were discussing an escapade when you came in? Do I get to be a part of that? Or is it something for just the two of you?”
“What makes you think you’re in any shape for adventure?” Betra frowned. “There is still the matter of you coming here on your own. Don’t think I’ve forgotten that.”
I waved him off. “Okay, my legs feel like limp noodles right now, but I’m fine otherwise.”
“You think you’re fine.”
“So punish me for being a twit. You can schedule my spanking for when I’m better.” The thought of a spanking made me feel happy all over. I sure will be glad when I’m recovered.
Oses grinned at Betra. “Add it to our plans.”
I sat straight up. “So I am a part of it. What is it? What are we going to do?”
Betra laughed, his worried anger disappearing at my enthusiasm. “It’s a surprise. We’ll give you a proper celebration once Tep gives us the go-ahead. Which isn’t for a while yet,” he added, going stern again.
I wiggled in my chair, delighted with whatever the two men are plotting. A little embarrassment colored my glee. “I figured once I had the baby, I’d be done with doctors knowing every time I wanted to play hide-the-sausage. I hate Tep being a voyeur into my sex life.”
“Hide the sausage?” Betra said, his eyes wide. Oses bellowed laughter at my turn of phrase.
“You know it,” I grinned. “I’d give anything to do it right now. Thinking about what you might have in store for me has me all excited.”
The two men exchanged a look. “She’s already given herself a workout by coming here,” Betra said.
“Not being given release is stressful as well,” Oses pointed out. “Plus, a good climax gives her no choice but to rest afterwards. She’ll want a nice long nap, which means she won’t be traipsing around the ship for a while.”
“There is that. The trick is keeping her still so she doesn’t overdo it.”
“I can arrange that.”
“All right then.”
I listened to their back-and-forth with growing anticipation. It sounded like I was in for some fun. I was right.