Monday, October 26, 2015
We’ve reached Alneusia. Most of the gang has gone on shore leave, but I’ve elected to stay on board and be with Anrel. Feru and Tep are not happy with me on that account. They are pushing me to get some fresh air, maybe take a walk on the beaches or a swim in the ocean. I know Betra and Oses would also like me to go down on the planet. They hint that the water sports we’d engage in down there are like nothing I can dare imagine.
How can I though, with what lies ahead for my daughter?
The Solns responded to Tep’s inquiries. They have suggested a surgical procedure to correct the heart valve problem. I haven’t gotten the particulars on it, because Tep himself is still looking over the process.
“I won’t lie to you,” he told me in that firm, no-nonsense voice of his. “I’ve never had to operate on such a tiny body like Anrel’s. That and her level of strength are what give me pause. However, the Soln hive has sent me step-by-step directions and how we might implement the surgery using nanobots.”
I shuddered to think of the tiny robots, which look like little black bugs, crawling around inside my baby. “It sounds pretty invasive,” I ventured.
“Actually, the incision point would be so small as to make it extremely safe,” Tep said. “The nanos will be sterilized and they’ll do only what I tell them to. It’s better than my big Kalquorian hands blundering around her thin arteries and little heart. Let me familiarize myself with the whole procedure before making a final decision. If I feel without a doubt that I can carry this out, I’ll let you know.”
In the meantime, Anrel continues to be on medication and an IV for feedings. I hate seeing her little self connected full time to the incubator, but what can I do? At least she continues to put on weight and do well overall. And she still loves to suck on her fist.
Betra and Oses got back from their first foray on Alneusia. Both seemed quite relaxed and happy ... I’m glad their water activities are giving them so much fun. I am curious as to what it is they’re doing there given the fact Betra won’t have actual intercourse with Oses. When I asked, they would only grin at me and tell me I had to come down to the planet to find out.
“I’m not leaving Anrel,” I insisted.
“Why? There is not one thing you can do for her. If it’s just that you don’t want her left alone, you know someone will sit with her while you take a break,” Betra said.
I didn’t want to admit he was right. Candy, Katrina, and the men they keep company with had already offered, as had Feru. Everyone is after me to take a little time for myself. I know perfectly well if Anrel has any medical problems, I can’t help. But I can’t shake the feeling I’d be selfishly abandoning her just to have some fun. It seems wrong.
I said as much. Oses rolled his eyes. Betra blew out a sigh.
“I hate to tell you this, but Feru and Tep are discussing issuing a medical order for you to take some shore leave,” my liaison said. “You’re not getting enough exercise even with Resan’s physical therapy. You need to breathe some real air. You have to give yourself a break for emotional well-being.”
It pissed me off that the psychologist and doctor were conniving to make me leave Anrel’s side. “They can’t do that!”
Oses raised an eyebrow at me. “They can. If they believe your physical and mental welfare is dependent on taking some time off, they have the authority to insist you do so. If you refuse, they will have me as head of ship’s security order a team to escort you to the planet.” He gave me a dangerous smile. “In such a case, I am bound to obey their orders.”
That news left me fuming. Everyone was ganging up on me. Maybe it was for my own good, but I didn’t appreciate being strong-armed like that.
I gave Oses a frosty look. “Well then, I’ll go to Alneusia when you are ordered to take me there.”
And fuck the whole bunch of them until then.
I was a little mollified when Betra gave me a package. “Clan Seot ordered some gifts for you from a couple of Alneusian businesses. I went ahead and picked them up for you.”
“More presents?” I was touched. Between Meyso getting the Solns to help Tep and the generosity of Clan Seot, I was being spoiled silly. I tried not to act too giddy over the package for Betra’s sake, but his expression was only curious.
He saw that I noted his interest. “I suppose you want to open this in private.”
“Well, I doubt they’ve sent anything personal,” I said, sitting down in the chair next to Anrel’s incubator. I started to open up the sealed box. “Oses liked the last round of gifts.”
The Nobek chuckled. “We’ll have to get that vid recorder out again. I don’t suppose it’s waterproof? If I am able to get you on Alneusia—” he let the innuendo hang in the air.
I got the box open and crowed delight at the first thing I saw. “No, that vid recorder isn’t waterproof, but this one is.”
I lifted the clear-shell cased vid recorder from the box. It stood to reason that the ocean-living Alneusians would have cameras perfect for underwater recording. Cifa had bought me one. The attached note said Get in some practice on shore leave. I have no doubt you’ll have many ideas of the vids we can create for the cruise line and travelogues.
Oh man, could I ever come up with some amazing footage with a vid recorder like this. I almost hoped Tep and Feru would force me to go to Alneusia just so I could try it out.
Seot’s gift was in a tiny box. I read the note before I opened it. It said My defense plants have supplied these to several worlds including Alneusia. It’s up to you whether you use them for yourself and Anrel, but it might help settle your mind on safety issues. Give the implantation instructions to the transport’s medical staff. It’s not a difficult procedure.
I opened the box to find two small cylindrical tubes inside. Tiny metal squares, barely a quarter of the size of my pinkie fingernail, rattled within them. I held them up for Betra and Oses to see, my look questioning.
Betra’s jaw dropped open and one corner of Oses’ mouth twitched up in a grin. “Planet range sub-dermal trackers,” the Nobek told me. “Expensive to produce. Only the richest and highest priority targets in the known worlds can afford them. Even our last and present Imperial Clans don’t have them.”
“I don’t think it’s the cost that keeps them from doing it. At least one of them has issues with someone being able to track them down. Emperor Clajak used to disappear a lot to avoid duties when he was a crown prince.” Betra snickered.
“But what are they?” I asked.
“You implant them surgically under the skin,” Betra explained. “If you go missing, the manufacturer – Dramok Seot’s firm, in this instance – activates the tracker. It will find the signal anywhere on a planet twice the size of Kalquor. In space, it can track a similar distance.”
“For real?” My mind boggled at the range of the tiny transmitters. “I didn’t know anything could track that vast an area.”
Oses took one of the tubes from me and eyed its contents with appreciation. “As I said, this technology is insanely expensive to produce. You could buy yourself a fleet of ships with one of these.”
“And Seot gave you two.” Betra’s voice was awed. “One for you and one for Anrel.”
I saw why they were so impressed. Holy prophets, the things were worth a fortune. But what struck me more than Seot’s incredible generosity was the peace of mind he offered. If Anrel had one of these ... and crazy Nang got to her and tried to take her away from me...
“I could find her anywhere,” I breathed.
“As long as she’s not taken off-planet or out of range. People would be searching before a kidnapper could get that far. A fine gift,” Oses said, handing the tube back. “One that would have made it much easier to find you on Finiuld’s ship, phased or not. I hope you will consent to having it implanted.”
“I think that’s pretty much a no-brainer,” I affirmed. “I’ll talk to Tep about it today.”
Larten’s gift was last and had me blinking in confusion. “Well. Next time the kitchen serves up ronka that hasn’t been properly tenderized, I’ll be ready.”
I held up the biggest, scariest knife I’d ever seen in my life. Double-edged, serrated, and over half the length of my forearm not counting the grip, it was perhaps the most brutal weapon I’d ever encountered.
Betra was taken aback. “By the ancestors, why would Nobek Larten send such a thing?”
Again, Oses held his hand out and I took exaggerated care in giving him the knife. The damned thing looked sharp. I had a vision of it slicing through Oses’ fingers like butter. The weapons commander eyed it with a keen gaze.
“A beautiful blade if you know how to use it. It’s light, perfectly weighted and the right length for Shalia. I doubt you’d find a finer wrought knife outside of Joshada.” He crooked a smile at me. “But forget about using it to cut your food. This is a fighting knife.”
Betra shook his head. “Again, why?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Larten wants Shalia to be able to defend herself if she must. A thoughtful gesture, but she’s not trained for it.” Oses twirled the blade on the tip of a finger and drew blood. His grin was bright, the crazy Nobek. “I can give her a few lessons.”
“A knife.” Betra rolled his eyes. “Of all the things to give a woman you’re supposed to be romancing.”
“A woman who attracts trouble just by getting out of bed in the morning,” I reminded him. “Do you really think you can train me so that I don’t hack my own ears off, Oses?” It sounded like a cool skill to have.
“A little, at least enough to be safe with it. I’m adequate with knives, but hand-to-hand is my best skill. I’m not surprised Nobek Larten would opt for knives, however.”
“Why is that?” Oses sounded like he knew something.
“When I checked his background, I found he was once courted by the Empire’s elite fighting force. That group of warriors is connected to our ground troops but operates independently. Larten went in on a trial basis and did well before he decided it wasn’t for him.”
“I wonder why he didn’t go through with it?” I mused.
“Probably because he met his Dramok around that time. The elite fighters never clan because they are constantly deploying to trouble hotspots. There is no home life for that bunch.”
Betra looked impressed. “Just to be invited is a high honor. He must be good.”
“Larten was trained in blade fighting by no less than then-High Commander Bevau. Our current Nobek emperor.” Oses grinned at me. “To use your Earther parlance, Emperor Bevau is a bad-ass when it comes to knives. He remarked in Larten’s records that he was one of the best fighters he’d ever trained.”
Wow. Praise from one of Kalquor’s emperors sounded like a pretty big deal. I needed to be more impressed than ever with Larten.
When Oses gave me my knife, I took it with a lot more reverence than I’d had before. I curled my hand around the rough metal grip. For all its solid looks, the blade was light. I moved it about, looking at how the light caught on its coldly beautiful edges.
“Until I start training you on the basics, get used to holding it every day,” Oses encouraged. “Think about it not as a tool or weapon. You should come to regard it as an extension of your arm, a part of your own body.”
I nodded and looked over all the goodies Clan Seot had sent. Useful things, things I could definitely appreciate. They along with Clan Aslada, Oses, and Betra ... as well as Candy, Katrina, Tep, Feru, Clan Wotref ... heck, tons of people were looking out for me and Anrel. I am a lucky gal.