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A Little Blue
The room they were in was twenty feet on a side and over ten feet high. The walls, ceiling and floor were composed of metal. Pipes ran in the uppermost foot of the wall and one of them had had a grille inset in it every few feet. Cold dry air hissed from it, making the only sound in the chamber. There was light, but to Ciaran’s eyes it seemed as if panels of the ceiling glowed, instead of the recessed lighting fixtures he’d first surmised they were. A large door on one wall was the only obvious exit.
Victoria and Eliana were staring at Baker. “What did you touch,” snarled Victoria. “Ciaran warned you not to touch either button!”
“I didn’t!” Baker looked almost frantic. “I just gripped the sides of it.”
“She didn’t touch them,” Ciaran said soothingly. “I watched her carefully to make sure she didn’t.” He sighed and looked around. “Well, the shovel and my pack came with us. That’s one good thing at least. The first question is how we get out of wherever we are. The second question is where we are.” He stowed the shovel on the pack and picked the pack up to hand it to Eliana. He frowned when he realized that it seemed a little lighter than normal. He shrugged and strapped it back on.
“I have a third question,” Victoria looked at him. “What happened?”
“I think I have an answer to that,” he said quietly. Everyone else turned to stare at him. “Tamsin, you’re a Pendragon, aren’t you?”
Her black skin paled and her eyes went almost dangerously wide. “How do you know?”
“Your earrings are stylized green cloaks. It’s the Order’s symbol.”
“What is a Pendragon?” Eliana looked from him to Tamsin and her face was a study in growing anger. “I have never heard of that breed and she is no pokegirl.”
“You are not to tell her!” Tamsin glared at him. “I forbid it.”
“You can’t forbid him to do anything,” Victoria moved between the two humans. Her voice was flat. “And if you attack Ciaran we will defend him.”
“They have to know,” Ciaran said. “If we’re where I think we are, we may need your skills.” He glanced at the back of Victoria’s head. “The Order of Pendragon is a group of magic using humans who are supposed to protect the British Isles. They’ve been around for over a thousand years and keep themselves hidden so nobody knows they exist. Tamsin is probably a knight in the Order.”
Victoria snorted. “They did a bang up job protecting the United Kingdom from us or the Blues.”
Ciaran shrugged. “They don’t serve the Queen of England.” He frowned. “Well, not the human queen, anyways. Their ruler is someone else.” He grinned suddenly. “I’m sure Tamsin would like to denounce me as a liar, but she knows you will believe me over her unless she bewitches us.”
Eliana’s poleax appeared and she struck without warning in a vast overhead swing. Ciaran threw himself between her and Tamsin and she changed the direction of the blow in mid swing, making the weapon smash into the floor with a ringing crash. It vanished as he yelled. “No! Tamsin hasn’t attacked us!”
“She will,” the Samhain growled.
“If she does, then we’ll deal with it. Until then she’s not our enemy.”
Tamsin chuckled. It sounded forced, but considering she’d almost been murdered out of hand, Ciaran couldn’t fault her for that. “You trust me?”
“You haven’t done anything to betray us yet. So, yes, I trust you. Don’t make me change my mind and we’ll be good.” He waved a hand around them. “We have no idea where we are. This isn’t the time for infighting. We need to work together.”
Eliana grunted once sourly. “Is my attack considered rude?”
He blinked. “What?”
“Should I apologize to her?”
Ciaran stared at her for a second before nodding gravely. “Yes, yes you should. We are Texans and we do not attack without provocation.”
“You will let her strike first?”
“I will not initiate violence against someone. I will respond to violence or the threat of violence against me.”
“You expect me to do this too?”
“If you’re with me, yes I do.”
She eyed him curiously. “What happens if I chose not to do this?”
“Then we are going to spend so much time arguing about your behavior that you probably shouldn’t be with me.”
Eliana looked troubled. “I will have to think about this.”
“While you’re thinking, understand this. If you attack Tamsin without provocation, I will be very put out. I need you here, but I will stop you even if I have to put you in your pokeball to keep her safe. And if I do that, you won’t be able to protect me if she does betray us or if we’re attacked by something else. And if you do hurt her without provocation, I will do the same thing and when we get to someplace safe, you and I will part ways.”
“You would abandon me?”
“I like you, but if we have irreconcilable differences then there’s no reason for us to be together. In a situation like that, you need someone better suited to your personality and so do I.”
For a second her lower lip quivered and she looked like she was going to cry. Then she nodded jerkily. “I will try to behave as you want me to.” Tears glittered at the corners of her eyes. “I do not wish to be sent away.”
He hugged her. “I don’t want you to be sent away either.”
She hugged him back hard enough to drive the air from his lungs before stepping way, wiping at her eyes. “I will be good.”
Victoria was too short to pat Eliana on the shoulder, so she patted the Samhain on the side. “I know you will. Are you two done now?”
Ciaran nodded. “We are.”
“Good.” She stepped in front of him and her eyes narrowed dangerously as her voice rose. “Do you have some kind of crazy death wish? What on earth made you think that getting in front of an attacking pokegirl is a safe way to protect someone else! Did it occur to you that more than likely it would just end up with both you and Tamsin dead and me left here alone to go feral?”
“I would be here,” Eliana said.
The Angel whipped around. “I would be alone because you would be dead after I killed you for being a bloody idiot!” Eliana blinked and backed up a step as the smaller Victoria crowded her relentlessly backwards. “If you ever hurt Ciaran it will be exactly the last thing you ever do!”
“You know,” Ciaran said evenly, “I just confronted Eliana about making threats against people.”
Victoria folded her arms. “I heard you. I am merely explaining to Eliana in a way she understands that I don’t want you hurt. I’d speak at her apparent mental level but baby talk leaves a lot to be desired as a method of communicating abstract concepts.”
Tamsin giggled and looked surprised at the noise she’d made.
Victoria turned to her like a cannon pivoting onto a target. “And you, I have nothing to say to. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because Ciaran doesn’t want me to threaten you and all I have for you right now are death threats. I don’t know what you did, but that thing didn’t activate until you insisted on handling it. You are the reason we are here and he’s going to insist we protect you with him, which means I won’t be able to protect him as much as I should. If he gets hurt,” she trailed off before giving Baker a grim smile. “Nope, I still have nothing but threats for you right now.”
“I am sorry I tried to kill you,” Eliana said unexpectedly. She frowned and looked at Ciaran. “I am not, really. I am sorry you stopped me before she was dead. Is it ok to lie to her?”
“Well, she can hear us so it doesn’t really matter. In general, however, this kind of lie is acceptable. But since you’re not going to attack people anymore unless they try to attack us, it won’t be an issue. Also, you don’t have to apologize for defending yourself. Just don’t make that defense preemptive.”
“I have heard that humans say that the best defense is a good offense.”
“They do. It and of itself has nothing to do with attacking first. It means the best way to defeat your enemy is to blunt or avoid their attack and then attack them back and keep them too busy to attack you. That way you win. Stopping someone’s attack and then waiting for them to attack again is a sure way to lose.” He shrugged. “Yes, it’s complicated, but we’ve had several thousand years to screw things up.” He looked at Baker. “Tamsin, are you going to deny being a Pendragon mage?”
“No, I’m not.” She met his gaze. “How did you know about us? That knowledge is very closely held.”
“My employer told me about the Order. He wanted me to be alert to their presence. He wanted me to make contact with the Order so that eventually he could speak with Ygerna.”
“That’s Queen Ygerna.”
“Sorry. I’m not used to thinking about royalty and their titles. I’m just a simple Texas boy.”
Baker smiled. “A Texas boy you might be, but I am beginning to doubt that you’re simple. I think that’s an act to take people off their guard.”
He grinned. “I’ll admit that I’ve seen that nobody takes the simple seriously. My employer would like to talk to your queen.”
“That I wasn’t told.” Reading Where None Has Gone Before gave Ciaran some strong suspicions about what Iain might want to meet with Ygerna about, but he wasn’t sure and a telepath might have trouble finding mere suspicion. “Maybe he wants to see if you’re interested in using pokegirls. He seems interested in everyone else using them.” He looked around. “Well, nobody has shown up, so we’ve got three scenarios. Nobody cares, nobody is here or we didn’t set off any alarms when we arrived.”
“You said you thought you had an answer to what happened,” Victoria said. “What is your theory?”
Ciaran blinked as all three women turned to stare alertly at him and wondered how to answer that question without giving away things he wasn’t sure he wanted Baker to know. “According to Iain, something similar to that controller has been encountered before. It was supposed to be activated by being handled by someone with magical talent, but it malfunctioned because the power supply was weak. Since Tamsin is a mage, her touch could have been enough to activate it. Your abilities might have set it off too. I did touch it, but even so I’m about a magical as a stump so I probably wouldn’t have made it work.”
“What are the buttons for then?”
“I have no idea. But what it did is kind of obvious. It moved us in space. Hopefully it didn’t also move us in time. I’ve been told it’s possible but that Scott never worked on time travel.” He realized he was still holding the box the controller had been and held it out. “Tamsin, put the controller back where it belongs.”
She carefully laid the controller inside it. “It’s all yours, Sullivan.” A thoughtful expression appeared on her face. “Where did this other controller take whoever activated it,” she asked.
He closed the box and shoved it inside his pack. “It moved the people who were standing around the controller to a base carved inside an asteroid that Scott had constructed before the war. I think that may be where we are, too.”
“Who is this Scott you keep mentioning?”
“Tamsin, James Scott is Sukebe’s real name. I knew a Jimmy Scott in my home town and he was a mean cold hearted man who would go out of his way to cause trouble. The two men remind me a lot of each other, only Jimmy died from the Red Plague.” He shrugged. “I said a prayer for his soul but there’s little doubt where he was headed.” He looked at the door. “I should take point.”
Victoria almost bristled. “You will do nothing of the sort. Eliana, you have point.” She looked at Baker but spoke to Ciaran as the Samhain moved towards the door. “I already know what the answer is probably going to be, but what do we do with Tamsin?”
“I’m going with you three,” Baker replied. “I’m not a pokegirl but I’m not going to be abandoned here either. Ciaran seems to have an idea of what’s going on, so being with him is safer than wandering off on my own.” She drew her pistol and checked it. “And I can help in fights.”
Victoria’s look of disgust was carefully concealed from Baker, but Ciaran could see it quite easily. “Ciaran says you can do magic. You’re human, though, so stay back with him if there’s a fight. You,” she looked at Ciaran.
“I’ll watch our back and let you know if I see anything.”
“Please let us know and then get out the way. I’d always thought I wanted a hero as my man, but now every time you do something brave first my heart stops and then I want to strangle you.”
Baker smiled. “I thought it was just me that wanted to do that.”
Ciaran shook his head. “Remember, Victoria, when I told you that I’d encountered that desire in women before? Well, I still don’t think it’s my fault.”
“You wouldn’t,” she shot back. “You’re always the last to know.”
“I can’t get the door open.” Eliana shifted to her equine form and threw all of her weight behind her attempts to force the door open. “Victoria, help me.” Even working together they couldn’t get it to move. Eliana changed back to her human form and summoned her poleaxe. “I’ll be back in a moment.” She hefted the weapon and phased through the door.
Baker stared at the spot where the Samhain had vanished. “How did she do that?”
Victoria shrugged. “She didn’t come with an owner’s manual.”
Baker turned to Ciaran. “Can that be prevented?”
“Not with current technology. You’d have to either use magic or reverse engineer some of Scott’s stuff first.”
“Is that what the Grey family did?”
Ciaran glanced at her. “I really don’t know. I do know that a couple of groups are manufacturing pokeballs and different versions of pokedexes for sale, but I don’t know if any of them are selling phase blocking technology or magic. I’m not even sure something like that exists.”
“They didn’t give you a sales list to whet the appetite of potential clients?”
“They did,” he replied, “but the list doesn’t have anything like that on it.”
Eliana stepped through the wall. Her face was pale and her expression grim. “The door is welded shut on the other side. I’ll have to take everyone through.”
“What’s the matter?”
“There was a fight in the hall outside this room. It’s,” she hesitated, obviously searching for the right word. “It’s bad.”
Victoria scowled. “How long ago?”
“Weeks. Maybe months.” She looked from Victoria to Ciaran. “Who goes first?”
Ciaran almost laughed at the sudden indecision on his Angel’s face. No matter what, he was going to be separated from her and she obviously didn’t like it. Fortunately, there was a solution. “Is the hall tall enough for your battle form?”
“Then you can carry all three of us so we’re not separated. Victoria will ride in the back so she can get off quickly without dismounting me and Tamsin if there’s trouble.”
“If there’s trouble you need to get off of Eliana too so she can fight with me.”
Eliana shook her head and changed to her centaur form. “You don’t want them doing that and landing wrong out there.”
“You’ll see.” She pivoted so her equine shoulders were next to Ciaran. “I don’t want the other human’s arms around me.”
Tamsin bristled. “Other human? I have a name.”
Elaina tossed her head imperiously. “Unless your name is Ciaran and you’re my male, I don’t care. I don’t want you in a position to put a knife in my back. You’re less likely to put one in Ciaran’s back.”
Baker looked confused. “I don’t understand.”
“If you hurt him, we would stomp you flat. If you hurt me enough, then Victoria might have to face you alone.” She turned her head to look at Ciaran. “That’s just an observation, not a threat.”
He chuckled as he tried to figure out how to climb onto her back. “I’m not sure you’re right, but I’ll let it pass this time.” She held out her arm and he used it to awkwardly crawl on her back, grunting once as pain from his healed injuries lanced through him. “Thanks.”
Once everyone was in place on her back, Eliana walked towards the door. Ciaran didn’t feel anything odd as they walked through it, although he wasn’t sure the chill that swept through him as they phased through the wall was from the passage of the material of the wall through his body or a surge of perfectly reasonable fear at the thought that something might go wrong and he might be trapped inside the wall. The question vanished as they entered the hall.
It was twenty feet high and twenty feet wide and extended in both directions for a least a hundred feet before turns in the corridor blocked his view. As far as he could see, the entire floor was covered with mummified bodies and pieces of bodies piled at least a foot deep where they were the thinnest. In places they actually formed small hillocks. Some of the bodies were more or less intact, but most had been shattered by whatever had warped the walls, floor and ceiling. It has also melted the outer portion of the door they’d come through until it was almost flush with the wall. Pieces of bone and decayed flesh stuck to the walls and ceiling so thickly that they furred the walls and dimmed the light panels to near twilight. The lights, he realized, must be far tougher than they looked not to have been destroyed. The place stank with the reek of dried blood and rotted meat. Behind him, Tamsin made a soft retching sound and he could feel her grip tighten on his pack.
Eliana turned off her phase ability and bone cracked beneath her hooves as her weight settled onto the corpses. “My hooves should be fine as long as I’m careful where I place my feet, but if you jump off you might drive bone pieces through your boots and feet. The resulting infection would probably be fatal. Falling off would also be bad.”
Victoria’s face was pale but her tone was almost clinical as she surveyed the area around them. “This is what happens when powerful pokegirls unleash their full power in enclosed spaces.”
“What kind of pokegirl could do this?” Baker’s voice was strained.
“A powerful magic one or a spell caster to damage the walls like that,” Victoria said. “It could be that the wall damage and the killings didn’t take place at the same time, but if it was one pokegirl or two it doesn’t matter. They were very strong. They might even have been too strong.”
That got Ciaran’s attention. “Can a pokegirl be too strong?”
“Pokegirls can’t really safely fight at full power in enclosed spaces. If whoever did this wasn’t very precise in how she carried out the attack, she could easily cripple or kill herself. In places with walls like this, part of the attack can be reflected back at the user, with disastrous results.” She gave a crooked smile that he could hear in her voice. “We are not immune to our own powers, you see. Resistant, sometimes, but seldom are we immune.”
“Which way do I go,” Elaina’s jack-o-lantern head rotated 180 degrees on her neck to look directly at Ciaran. He felt his hair stand on end and managed not push away in surprise as he looked away for an instant to compose his emotions. What she’d done was really creepy.
He forced himself to look back at his Samhain’s face. “We go to the left.” It was a random choice, but it sounded like he knew what he was doing. Sometimes that was more important than actually knowing.
Eliana obediently turned and began delicately picking her way over the mounds of bodies. Even as cautiously as she picked where to put her feet, sometimes she slid. The bodies weren’t as dry as Ciaran had first thought, either, and her weight sometimes caused her to sink into a corpse with wet noise and a rush of foul gas that had Baker turning greener and greener. It didn’t help that a handful of times Eliana had to stop and lift corpse and hoof together until she could shake the body free or pry it off with her poleaxe.
After they reached the turn in the corridor, the number of bodies began to slowly diminish and a few minutes later Eliana could sometimes touch the floor with her hooves. When there was more area of clear floor than there was of floor covered with dead, Ciaran tapped her on the shoulder. “Stop. Everybody off so Eliana can fight if she needs to.”
Once they were standing on the floor he slid his pack off and opened it up to pull out a towel they’d gleaned on their travels. “Lift your right front hoof.”
“I’m going to clean your feet and then Victoria’s going to heal them in case you got cut. Nasty infections, remember?” Her jack-o-lantern face couldn’t move to show emotion, but he got the distinct feeling of resigned annoyance as she obeyed. The stench was almost overwhelming as he cleaned her feet, but he felt vindicated when the towel came away with streaks of fresh blood bright against the slime from her right rear hoof. He didn’t say anything, just showed it to Victoria, who nodded and paid extra attention to that limb. When finished he tossed the filthy towel on the deck and picked up his pack. “I believe Eliana is on point.”
He caught Victoria eyeing him with a cautious look. When Baker wasn’t looking at the two of them she mouthed the word “rifle” to him. He shook his head and she nodded with a hint of approval.
Ciaran counted his steps and when they’d traveled nearly a quarter of a mile the corridor ahead of them ended. The first panel they’d seen other than the one for the door in the room they’d arrived in broke the wall’s surface next to the end. “I think it’s some kind of door,” Eliana said.
Ciaran and Victoria arrived at the panel simultaneously. Victoria gave him a halfhearted glare that he ignored. “I doubt they went through the trouble to booby trap it.” He chuckled. “Not that this is going to be difficult to figure out.” There were two buttons and a light, one green one with an arrow pointing up and a red one with arrow pointing down. The light was red.
Victoria pushed the green button. The red light began flashing and, with a soft squealing from the edges, the door rose into the ceiling, leaving a six inch wide gap in the floor that went down a foot into the metal before stopping. The walls had identical tracks in them.
Ciaran laughed suddenly. “It’s a blast door or bulkhead door. I saw something like this in a movie called Star Wars. It’s to segment the area to prevent the spread of damage or loss of atmosphere in space. More and more I’m thinking that this might be that space station I mentioned earlier.” He frowned. “And the question also becomes why this door was closed? Normally they’d probably be open.”
“Ferals,” Eliana said firmly. “At the end of the war I remember a base where people started to go feral. Shut doors would baffle them. A few realized they could batter them open to get at what’s on the other side, but we executed the ferals as quickly as we found them.”
Victoria’s eyes widened. “What a horrible thing to do to them.”
The Samhain shrugged. “We were told that people who were defeatist were the only ones who would go feral and our orders were to eliminate them to prevent spread of the infection.”
“It’s not contagious!”
“I know that now.” Eliana shrugged. “We were told it was.”
Ciaran waved everyone through and closed the bulkhead door behind them. “If Eliana is right, the question becomes on which side of the door is the feral?”
“That’s assuming there is one,” Baker replied as she looked up the hallway. “It could have been merely a precaution or closed for another reason entirely.”
“Let’s just hope that any others we come across aren’t closed because there’s vacuum on the other side of them. Or if they are, I really hope they won’t open.”
A half mile of walking brought them to another blast door. Again, they opened it, moved through and shut it behind them. The experience at the third blast door was different.
When opened, this door revealed the passageway had changed. Before it was unmarked, but now yard wide bands of blue ran down each wall. Also new were irregularly spaced recesses in the walls. A skeleton lay in the middle of the passage, the first one they’d seen since the massacre site. It had been partially disarticulated, with many of the bones strewn around it.
“Not good,” Victoria said as she knelt and examined a rib. “There are teeth marks on this. It been fed on and nobody cleaned it up.” She dropped the rib and stood, wiping her hands on her pants. “It’s not a recent kill but it’s yet another reason to be cautious here.”
Ciaran was inspecting one of the recesses. It was eight feet tall and four wide, and had a panel next to it similar to the ones at the blast doors. He pushed the green button and the wall inside the recess slid up to disappear. “It’s a door.” He stumbled sideways as Eliana shoved past him to stand in the doorway. “Hey!”
“She’s doing the right thing,” Victoria said from behind him. “This place is not safe.” She raised her voice slightly. “What do you see?”
“It’s a storeroom,” Eliana replied, “but I’m not sure what I’m looking at.”
Ciaran looked around her. Stored on racks were pieces of equipment, some of which he could identify. “That’s machinery and parts for them. This looks like a spare parts room.” He slipped past her and touched a motor. “We could eat for a couple months off of this if we could get it back to Texas to sell. Nobody can make things like this right now and this kind of motor is used in a lot of different ways.”
“What is this?” Baker’s voice came from farther up the passageway.
Victoria shook her head slightly. “Ciaran, please remember that if she wanders away and gets eaten, it’s not our fault.”
“I know that stupid is its own reward,” he said as he closed the door he’d opened. “Let’s go see what she’s found.”
Baker was standing in front of a kiosk which held a keyboard and a display set at waist level. A slot was set in the platform next to the display. She looked up as they joined her. “This is some kind of computer, but the display doesn’t make sense.”
Ciaran looked at it. The display showed two images, one of a stylized image of a hand and the other of an open book. “Ladies, any ideas?”
“It’s a data unit,” Victoria said. “I’ve seen them in some of the bases, but I’ve never had reason to use one. The icons are to determine whether the user is literate or not. The book is for literate people and I’m told the illiterate version is much more limited than it is. You touch the screen to activate it.” She shrugged. “It might have some useful information for us.”
Ciaran touched the book and a small light on the keyboard came on while the screen changed to show two lines of text. The first said “Insert ID card”. The second said “Touch here if you have no ID”. He touched the second line.
The display added more text. “ID must be carried at all times. Failure to present ID upon the demand of authorized security personnel is a level three crime and will be punished. If you have left your ID in your quarters, retrieve it immediately. If you have lost your ID or have never had one, touch the X below”. Ciaran touched the X.
The screen changed, asking him to type in his name. He did so and a cursor flashed in the corner for several seconds before it asked him if he were male. He lifted his hands from the keyboard and stared at it. “Why would it ask if I’m a man?”
“During the last part of the war Sukebe was experimenting with recruiting human tamers to his side to offset our enemy’s use of them. The computer may have decided your name was one normally used by males.” She smiled. “And since most pokegirls didn’t have names, it might have been a trick question.”
“Let’s find out.” He touched the Y and the screen began asking him to enter personal information. He did so. When he finished, the screen began flashing the word “Processing”. When it stopped flashing, part of the shelf the keyboard rested on lifted up to reveal a card with Ciaran’s picture on it. He retrieved it and looked closely. “There’s got to be a camera around here somewhere.” He showed the card to Victoria. She took it and turned it over. “There must also be readers in the keys.” She held up the back to show his fingerprints on the card. “I’ve heard of this technology, but have never seen it before.” She touched a line of bars on the card below his prints. “I wonder what this is”
Ciaran took the card. “Considering everything else that thing can do, it’s probably a digital copy of my DNA.”
Eliana perked up. “If they clone you, can I have my own Ciaran so I don’t have to share you?”
“I get the original,” Victoria stated firmly.
Eliana gave her a sulky stare. “Never mind.”
“That’s what I thought you’d say.”
Ciaran tuned them out and looked at display again. It had gone back to showing the hand and the book. He touched the book and inserted his ID card when prompted. The screen changed into quadrants. In the topmost one was his picture. Below that were sections for maps and other information on the station. He touched the section for maps and began navigating his way through it, carefully reading the entire screen before touching anything each time.
“What have you found out,” Tamsin murmured. Ciaran glanced over his shoulder to see her standing behind him and reading the display with him. Victoria and Eliana were standing guard nearby while he worked.
He hovered a finger over the display. “I’ve been doing an overview of the maps. According to them, the facility is eight miles long and we’re here. I'm still not sure if it's an asteroid base or not. I’m trying to figure out what should be a priority.”
“Food,” Victoria said from where she was standing. “We need it and so will anyone who has survived, whether they are feral or not.”
“I’m hungry,” Eliana stated. “Food would be good.”
“When are you not hungry,” Victoria asked acidly.
“I am not hungry when I am full,” Eliana replied with a tone that suggested Victoria was an idiot. The hardening of Victoria’s eyes told Ciaran she hadn’t missed it and wasn’t going to forgive it.
“That’s enough,” he muttered. “I’ve found the closest cafeteria. It’s not too far away.”
Ciaran pulled his computer out and tried to take a picture of the map on the display. He frowned when a yellow cursor started flashing on the display. He touched it and it opened a box that read “Transmitter/receiver detected. Proceed with information transfer?” A green box held a Y and a red box held an N. He touched the Y and the screen changed. “Beginning data transfer. Unknown protocols detected. Evolving proper protocols. Beginning data transfer. Data transfer complete. Uploading remote access software. Installing software.” Ciaran reached to stop the transmission and protect his computer but before his hand could move the screen changed again. “Software installation complete. Transmission complete.”
Ciaran accessed his computer, sighing in relief when it responded as he’d expected it to. There were, however, several new icons that hadn’t been there before. One was for maps and he opened it with some trepidation. It obediently showed a map of their location and a caret for where they were. A colored line showed the path they should take to the cafeteria. “This will make getting from one place to another easier.”
“Do you think your employer will sell those things to Her Majesty’s government?” Tamsin was watching with poorly disguised envy.
He smiled. “I meant which Her Majesty, Anne or Ygerna?”
Tamsin blinked. “I forget you know about that. Your employer would do business with the Order?”
“I don’t see why not. You have money, right?”
She smiled. “We do.”
“Then if Iain won’t do business with you, I probably would. If nothing else I’ll buy from him and sell to you with only a slight markup. If he has a problem with it, either he and I’ll work it out or I’ll go buy from one of his competitors.”
Her smile widened. “I was right. Simple, you are not.”
He shrugged. “I’m just not willing to overlook a business opportunity. The Order is supposed to be a lot like our Rangers and I can appreciate you trying to protect your homeland. The equipment I can get for you will help you to do that more effectively.”
“When I was told I was going to be your liaison, I did some research. There isn’t a lot of information about your government, but I know it is not anything like ours. And yet you’d support us?”
“I’d supply you. It’s not the same thing as supporting you. And your queen, from what I’ve learned, is not the worst ruler I’ve known about. Besides, if I was only willing to do business with people who thought like me, I’d never have had to leave Texas.” He checked the map on his computer. “We go that way.”
The lift door opened and Eliana rushed into the hallway as Victoria blocked Ciaran and Tamsin from exiting. Eliana looked around and motioned for the others to join her. It turned out that the closest cafeteria was only relatively close. According to the map they had arrived here deep in an area that had been left undeveloped for future expansion, expansion that would now never happen. For them, however, it meant that the kiosk where Ciaran had gotten his ID and the map was almost a mile and three levels down from the nearest cafeteria. Fortunately, having been designed for a population that was nearly universally illiterate, all of the controls they’d found had been childishly simple to operate and had no security lockouts.
Eliana had turned back to her bipedal form to fit in the lift and she looked over her shoulder at him. “Which way?”
Ciaran knew, but consulted his map to double check. “It’s to the left about a hundred yards.”
She shifted to her combat form in mid step and trotted down the corridor, careful to keep in sight of the rest of the group. The corridor kinked up ahead and she stopped where she could see around the bend while staying visible to Victoria as the others moved up to join her. When they were close enough for conversation she spoke. “There’s another body down there. It’s big and it looks pretty freshly dead.” As always when in her battle form, her voice echoed hollowly. It still made Ciaran’s skin crawl when he heard it.
“I’ll take a look,” Victoria said. “You guard.” Eliana’s jack-o-lantern head couldn’t show expression, but the flames flickering in the holes in it hissed a little more loudly as Victoria walked towards the corpse.
From what Ciaran could see the body was composed of a long, thick tail and the rear of some huge creature. He couldn’t see the front end. Even prone, its hips rose high enough that Victoria’s shoulder was level with it. What he could see of the creature was colored forest green dappled with brown. It was also so decayed that he could see the bones of the tail and hips easily outlined against the taught skin.
“What is that?” Tamsin hissed in his ear. “That can’t be a pokegirl.”
Ciaran shrugged. “Some of them get bigger than that. I’ll scan it when we get to it just to be sure.”
“Ciaran! Get a pokeball and get down here! She’s not dead!” Victoria waved frantically in case he couldn’t hear her bellowing at him. “Hurry! Eliana bring him!”
He yelped in pain as Eliana grabbed him by the armpits and went from standing still to a full gallop in three steps. She skidded to a halt and dropped him in front of Victoria. He stumbled forward and fell to his knees. Instead of trying to stand, he dropped the pack from his shoulders and released an empty pokeball into his hand. He leaned forward and shoved the ball against the emaciated ribs. She looked so dead that he was surprised when she vanished into the containment beam. The ball didn’t jerk once, but he gave it a good thirty seconds before deciding it had held before getting slowly to his feet. “That was not necessary.”
Victoria gave him a puzzled look. “What?”
“I am going to have huge bruises under my arms and it already feels like something got pulled.” The heat in his voice made her eyes widen. “That was not necessary, Victoria. She would not have died in the time it took me to walk down here.”
She turned an angry glare on Eliana. “You should have found another way to get him to me.”
Ciaran took her by the chin and turned her to look at him. She stared at him with huge astonished eyes. “She’s not the one at fault. You are. You had no reason to order her to carry me down here like a baby. I appreciate you were excited to find her alive and I’m sure she’ll bring a good price. But I am not a pokegirl, my armpits are not lifting points and that hurt.”
Victoria shook her head. “You can’t sell her. You have to tame her.”
Ciaran’s mouth dropped. He pulled it shut as his temper flared higher and he took a deep breath to try to rein it in. “Why on earth would I want to do that?” His voice took on an edge that Victoria had never heard before. His sister could have warned her. She’d heard it a couple of times and if she’d been with them she’d be backing up to get out of his reach right now.
“I’m sorry Eliana hurt you,” she said, “but that girl lived here. She knows more about this place than we do and you have to tame her.”
Ciaran’s fists clenched and he leaned forward to loom over her. “Don’t change the subject. Eliana didn’t hurt me; you did when you gave her a stupid order. She was just the tool you used. My life wasn’t in danger. My life wasn’t even being threatened. You will never do that again just because you’re being inconvenienced. You do not get to have me moved around like I’m a piece of furniture you feel isn’t where it belongs, is that understood?”
Victoria took a step away from him in the face of his fury and looked away from his gaze. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly.
He leaned back slightly. “For?”
She gave him a confused look. “What?”
“Saying I’m sorry means nothing unless you explain what you’re apologizing for. Too many people say their sorry when they have no idea what they’re talking about. They just want the person who’s upset at them to go away. I want to know you understand what I’m unhappy about. What are you apologizing for?”
“I’m sorry I told Eliana to get you down here.”
Ciaran shook his head. “That’s not why I’m upset. I am not to be treated as if I can’t take care of myself. No, I’m not as good a fighter as you or Eliana, no I’m not as tough as either of you and no, I can’t do a lot of the things you can but if I need help and my life isn’t in immediate danger of ending, I will have the time to ask for it. You can offer all the help you feel I need, but I am free to ignore it as much as I want. You can’t make that decision unilaterally. I will not tolerate it.”
“I am sorry I hurt you. Next time I will ask if I can carry you.”
Ciaran nodded to his other girl. “Thank you Eliana.”
Victoria’s shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry I treated you that way, Ciaran. I’ll try to remember and give you the respect you deserve.” She met his gaze squarely. “But to be honest I don’t know if I can stop yelling at you when you do something that scares me. I can’t bear the thought of you being dead.”
“I don’t like being yelled at but sometimes you’re right about me being stupid, so I can put up with that. We yell at those we care for sometimes even when we know we shouldn’t. It’s part of caring for them.”
Tamsin had arrived while they were talking and she shook her head. “Your pokegirls are much more complicated than the ones in the United Kingdom are.”
“No, they’re not. The difference is that your people won’t let them be human. Every time they try they get beaten down and because of their nature they allow it and eventually stop trying. I care for my ladies and I want them to be themselves as long as it doesn’t prevent me from being me. Since it’s a healthy relationship there’s going to be friction from time to time, especially since we’re still learning about each other.” He turned back to Victoria. “Why would I want to add to my harem at this time?”
“Like I said, she lives here and should know more about this place than we do.” She glanced at Baker. “The only other person who is here who can tame her mind awake is Tamsin and I don’t want to give a pokegirl to anyone in the UK if I don’t have to.”
“What does that mean,” Baker asked.
“To be blunt, Tamsin, I don’t like the way anyone in your country treats pokegirls.” Victoria’s tone was unapologetic. “You’re institutionalizing the concept that we’re subhuman at best and monsters at worst, to be controlled to keep humans safe. I’ve even seen it starting in the classrooms for children as early as seven years old.”
Tamsin’s mouth firmed. “You see here,” she began.
Victoria cut her off. “I’ve seen more than enough, Tamsin. I’m not going to argue how the Royals are better than the Blues. Both sides are almost the same for us.” She turned back to Ciaran as Tamsin glared at her. “She should be yours.”
“She’s damned near skeletal. I thought she was dead.”
Victoria smiled slightly. “So did I until I touched her and felt the life still flickering dimly inside her. I can force her to change to her taming form like I did with Eliana so you can tame her properly.”
“So what, we feed her up and then I have my way with her?”
Victoria shook her head. “She’s harmless the way she is. I doubt she’ll even wake up while you’re taming her. If we fed her first she’d be too dangerous to allow you near her without restraining her somehow.”
“And what if she dies after I’ve woken her mind? She’s my responsibility at that point and I’d feel like I’d failed her.”
“She won’t,” Victoria said confidently. “It may take some time to get her back up to fighting trim once she’s awake but after she’s been tamed and is part of our family I can keep her healthy enough to recover.”
He grimaced. “You really think she’ll be that useful?”
Victoria shrugged. “Do you even know the right questions to ask to find out where we are and how we get back to Glasgow?”
Ciaran rolled his neck to get rid of the sudden tightness in it and his shoulders. That question had been running in circles and screaming in his head since they’d arrived and he’d been trying very hard not to think about it since he already knew what the answer was. “No, I don’t.”
He made a motion as if shooing off an insect buzzing around his face. “You’ve convinced me. I’ll add her to our family.”
“What is she?” Tamsin eyed him curiously. “You did say you’d tell me.”
“Right.” He pulled out his computer and scanned the pokeball. “She’s a Tantrasaur.”
He grinned suddenly. “I just told you. I never said I’d explain it.”
“You’re a right cheeky bastard, you know that?”
“If that means what I think it does, yes I do.” He changed screens and pointed. “And that door should be the cafeteria.” He looked up and blinked. The door had been pounded by something incredibly heavy and was buckled inward so badly that gaps showed on two sides. “Wow.”
Victoria touched the open button for the door. There was a grinding noise in the wall and a loud bang. Oily mist sprayed from inside one side of the door frame and the grinding noise stopped as both of the red and green buttons turned yellow and began flashing. “We’re not getting in there this way.”
Ciaran patted Eliana on the back of her equine portion. “See what’s in there but be careful.”
“I have a question,” Eliana leaned down and asked in a low echoing whisper. “After what she did, do I still have to obey Victoria?”
Ciaran lowered his voice to match hers. “Let me think about it, so for now, yes.”
“If you decide I don’t, don’t tell her.” The flames danced mischievously. “I want it to be a surprise.” She raised her voice. “I’ll be right back.”
Victoria moved to stand next to him as Eliana phased through the door. “What were you two whispering about?”
“She had a question I’m going to have to consider before I can answer.”
“Is it anything interesting?”
He shrugged. “Could be.”
“You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Tamsin is right. You are cheeky.”
His eyebrow rose. “I am going to look up that word and find out what it means.” She just grinned back.
Elaina slid through the wall and changed back to her bipedal form. “It is the cafeteria. I gave the place a quick search and didn’t find anyone. There is a door in the back of the kitchen. I didn’t open it.” She held out her hand to Ciaran.
He took it and grabbed Victoria’s hand with his free hand. “Tamsin, take Victoria’s hand.”
Baker gulped. “What happens if I let go halfway through?”
“You die,” Eliana said.
Baker stared at her. Her voice rose. “That’s it? I die?”
“Don’t let go.” Eliana looked at Ciaran. “Ready?” When he nodded she stepped through the wall with Tamsin almost scurrying to keep up. Ciaran shuddered slightly as the coolness swept through him once more. When Eliana was satisfied that everyone was safe, she let his hand go.
The cafeteria was fairly typical for its type, although the rows of stools on either side of the tables, instead of chairs, were a nod to the fact that some breeds of pokegirls had tails and wings. The other end of the room had counters laid out in a U and doors behind the counters for the serving staff to replenish the food. On one end of the room were two doors. Both had pictograms on them showing a female outline squatting with drops of liquid coming from her butt.
Eliana pointed at the doors behind the counters. “Behind them is the kitchen. The other doors are bathrooms.”
The kitchen was typical of an industrial kitchen, with doors for freezers on one wall and a double door next to them. “Victoria, see what’s in the freezers and behind the doors. While unlikely, an ice pokegirl could be hiding in ambush in the freezers.”
“Watch him,” Victoria told Eliana as she headed for the first freezer. She emerged a few minutes later. “There’s a lot of frozen meat and vegetables in it, but no pokegirls.”
Ciaran was reading his computer’s entry on the Tantrasaur. He glanced up and nodded before returning to his perusal. When he was done he started looking at the cooking supplies.
Victoria returned. “There’s a lot of stuff in the freezers, including ice cream. I haven’t had ice cream in years.”
“You can have some for dessert today. And the room?”
“The doors lead to a storage room. Inside is mostly dried food. We can stock up before we leave.” She looked at Ciaran and raised an eyebrow.
He knew what she was asking. He’d managed to hide the pack’s capabilities from Tamsin so far but he knew he couldn’t do it forever. Better to pretend he hadn’t told her about them because he didn’t think it important than to get caught actively deceiving her. “Yes, we’ll load up the pokepack.”
Tamsin frowned. “What’s a pokepack? Is that a special name for a backpack?”
“A pokeball stores a pokegirl in digital format. A pokepack does the same thing for a limited amount of regular items. I can pack five hundred pounds of stuff in an empty pack.”
Tamsin whistled softly. “That’ll make logistics in the field a lot easier.”
Ciaran looked at Elaina and Victoria. “Ladies, you fetch and I’ll cook.”
Elaina jerked a thumb in Tamsin’s direction. “What about her?”
“She can wash dishes.”
Tamsin frowned. “I will, will I?”
“If you eat, you get to help with the meal. Since I’m cooking and they’re finding what we’re going to eat, you get dish duty.” He looked up. “Oh, and ladies, no matter what’s in those freezers, dinner will not just be dessert.”
“I’ll get the meat,” Eliana announced. “I can thaw it with my fire abilities.”
Victoria nodded. “I saw some pasta and rice. Which would you rather have, Ciaran?”
“Get the pasta. We’ll take some rice with us. In fact, most of what we’ll take will be vegetables and spices. Meat hasn’t been a problem on the road.” He looked around the room. "Of course, this isn't exactly on the road and the only meat here might be ferals and rats."
Victoria gave him a horrified stare. "You would eat a feral?"
"Of course I wouldn't unless I was inches from death, Victoria. While their status as people while feral is murky at best, I don't eat sentient beings. No humans and no cetacea."
Eliana glanced at him. "I can learn. The last time you said something like that it wasn't a pokegirl at all. This time it sounds like you're not talking about a breed of pokegirl. Am I right?"
"You are right. Cetacea are the whales and porpoises." Eliana beamed at the praise and he chuckled. "I would, however, eat rat if I have to. But I don't since the freezer has meat and we'll take some with us."
"Won't it spoil?"
"No, Tamsin, it won't. Pokeball and pokepacks store things as they are at the instant of their being stored. Frozen meat won't thaw inside my pack."
"Neither will ice cream," Victoria said.
Ciaran shook his head. "I like ice cream too, but I am not wasting room in my pack for sugar."
Victoria gave him a look. "What about the feral?"
"I'll take care of her in the back room after I've eaten dinner. Besides, that way there'll be some food already prepared for her to eat too."
"Considering her state," Victoria said, "make some broth for her. Even when I wake her up, she won't be eating solid food immediately."
"Good point. I'll do that while working on the rest of the meal." He looked around. "And for a change I've got plenty of pots and pans."
Tamsin gave him an annoyed look. "I have to clean those, remember? Don't use them all."
He chuckled. "I'll keep that in mind."
Tablecloths had been piled up and pressed into use as bedding for the Tantrasaur. Ciaran rubbed his eyes and wondered if the feeling of self-loathing would ever go away. Her human form wasn't unattractive, she would be nearly six feet tall when standing and, even starved, was built like a female powerlifter with muscular arms, a pear shaped build and legs like pistons. Her coloration hadn't changed, so she was still green and brown. Instead of hair she had a slight frill running the back of head. It wasn't more than an inch long and angled down from the crown of her head towards her neck, like the back of an old English policeman's helmet. He didn't know what color her eyes were since she hadn't woken up while he was having sex with her. Except for breathing, she hadn't moved at all. Of course, that led right back to the intense loathing he felt.
Victoria rested a hand on his shoulder. "Are you all right?"
"No. I'm not even close to all right. In fact, from where I am, I can't even see a sign pointing in the direction of all right."
Her fingers tightened and relaxed as she massaged the muscles underneath her hand. "It had to be done." When he didn't respond she leaned over to peer into his eyes. "Ciaran."
"I'd be a sorry excuse for a woman, much less a pokegirl, to leave you when you so obviously need to not be left alone."
He shuddered. "I've never been interested in having sex with a drunk or otherwise comatose girl. It's rape. And now I've gone and sunk to a new low. God forgive me for what I've done."
"Ciaran, when she is awake you can ask her what her opinion is. Until then I need your help in taking care of her so that she does not die."
"We both know what she's going to say. She's a pokegirl. She's going to say 'thank you sir, may I have another'."
"And if she does, will you deny her that?"
The look he gave her made her blink and she recognized the tone in his voice as him getting angry again. "Don't push, Vicky."
Her lips tightened. "I would prefer that you not call me Vicky again. She was a Bunnygirl that I detested. My name is Victoria. But I'm sorry I pushed. I'll try to stop."
"I still need your help taking care of her."
He looked at the Tantrasaur again. "What do you think I can do, put in a feeding tube?"
"She's not nearly at that point, Ciaran. She is on the edge of death, but it's mostly from dehydration and not starvation. But if we don't get some fluids into her she will die and soon."
"Just how do we do that? This isn't TV. You shove water into an unconscious person and they drown."
Victoria grimaced. "I don't know. I was hoping you might since your family survived the war and everything that came afterwards."
Ciaran leaned back and pushed the guilt away while he thought. He remembered something and sat up. "This kitchen was set up for some kind of chef. There are some things in the first aid kit I need for this. With those and a couple of other things, I remember a way my mother saved a man's life. Granted, later we shot him, but that has nothing do with mother saving his life."
"Why did you shoot him?"
"He tried to betray us to some outsiders who wanted to break in and take our stuff. It turned out he'd been part of their group from the beginning and we didn't realize it until almost too late. That's when I got that arrow in the chest." He got up. "You get the kit and I'll rummage for the other things I'll need."
A short time later the Tantrasaur had been rolled onto her stomach. Ciaran handed the catheter to Victoria. "You get to do this part. I lubricated it with olive oil."
She stared at it and then him. "Why me?"
"If she lashes out with that tail, it'll break my bones. You not so much. Remember, you're protecting me."
"And now she wants to strangle him again," Victoria muttered. She lifted the tail and quickly inserted the catheter into the Tantrasaur's anus. The comatose pokegirl didn't even twitch. "Is that deep enough?"
"I marked the how deep you need to go with a magic marker. You need to go in at least as far as the black line. We don't want it squirting out unexpectedly."
She checked. "Then it's deep enough. Is it really a magical marker?"
"If you mean does it work by magic, no. It's a colloquial name for a permanent marker."
"Eliana is right. You have too many strange names for things."
"You have no idea." He hooked the tubing up to the piping bag he'd set up and filled the bag with the solution he'd mixed and started the drip flowing.
"What is this?"
"It's called a Murphy drip. It's how they used to hydrate people before IVs became the preferred method. In fact, some claim that this procedure hydrates much faster than an IV does. It's just an IV isn't as uncomfortable or embarrassing. The solution is water, a little sugar, a little salt and some other things to form an electrolyte solution. The tubing is for an IV, which I don't have, so it's got drip control." He adjusted it to his satisfaction. "The electrolyte solution will get absorbed by her bowels, hydrating her faster than an IV could." He made a note on his handheld. "We need to add some reusable bags to the medical supplies so I don't have to use a piping bag for this. Still, it's waterproof and works. We'll keep it until we get something better. I made two gallons of the electrolyte solution. We can keep the piping bag filled using this measuring cup so we can keep track of how much fluid she gets."
"How much do you want to give her?"
"Keep putting water into her until she wakes up. If she pees herself, so much the better. I'm more than a little concerned that her kidneys might have shut down. That sometimes happens because of acute dehydration. If so, she's probably going to die no matter what we do unless you can help her. Can your healing powers fix kidney failure?"
Victoria gave him a pensive look. "I don't know. I hope I don't have to find out."
"Yeah, me too. Now we keep water going into her and wait."
"Ciaran, will saving her life make you feel better about what you did?"
He looked at her evenly. "I'm not sure anything will. How about we not talk about it."
"If you insist."
"Get some sleep. I'll keep an eye on her and you can relieve me in four hours." He watched her head into the main portion of the cafeteria and settled down at a small table to do some reading on his computer. He had to do something to keep his mind busy. It had been a long day and if he just stared at his patient he was going to fall asleep.
Ciaran woke when he was jerked backwards from the chair and his head twisted painfully sideways. An angry female voice hissed into his ear. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” A glance showed the Tantrasaur was no longer where he’d left her. The equipment was still there and a dribble of water leaked from the catheter onto the tablecloths. When he didn’t reply she twisted his head further. “Answer me, man.”
He spoke through gritted teeth. “Ciaran Sullivan, I am one of Sukebe’s generals. There’s an ID in my pocket.”
Her breath was warm and moist on his ear. “Anyone with two working brain cells can get an ID. A Bunnygirl can get an ID. I think you’re an intruder. What did you stick up my ass?”
Ciaran was in agony and was afraid she was going to break his neck. He glanced at the table again and said the first thing that came into his mind. “Don’t you have to pee?”
“What?” She went still for an instant before hurling him away from her. He hit some crates, sending some of them tumbling and there was a crack like a stick snapping as his wrist broke. Pain lanced through him and he cradled his wrist as he slid to the floor.
Victoria jerked upright as a crash sounded through the door to the storage area. She gaped as the Tantrasaur waddled through it and headed in a slow yet frantic rush for the closest bathroom, keeping her thighs clamped together as she moved. She looked at Victoria but didn’t stop. “You, detain that man until I return. Be careful, he’s a wizard.”
“Detain?” Eliana surged to her feet from where she’d been sitting on watch and ran through the storeroom door.
Victoria kicked Tamsin’s sleeping form lightly in passing. “Come with me!” Pushing through the door she found Eliana checking Ciaran over. “Is he ok?”
“His wrist is broken. Heal it.” Growing anger glowed in her eyes. “That lizard is dead meat.”
“She thinks I am an intruder,” Ciaran winced as Victoria gently probed his wrist. He relaxed as her healing magic flowed into it. “How bad is it?”
“It’s a simple fracture and it’s already been fixed. You should keep all of your mobility and not need any physical therapy.”
“That’s good. I’m still working keeping my stomach muscles flexible. They keep getting tight.”
“They will for a while, but you’re doing a good job keeping to the schedule I gave you.”
“Good, I’m glad to see he’s,” the Tantrasaur broke off and froze as Eliana drove the razor tip of her poleaxe a finger’s breadth deep into the soft tissue below her jaw. When she spoke again it had jumped two octaves. “What is the meaning of this?” Bright blood trickled down her green neck.
“You managed to hurt my man,” Eliana hissed. “Only one thing is keeping you alive right now and that’s the fact that you bear his seed inside you and because of it he would feel guilt over your death.”
Her eyes went even wider and Ciaran noticed absently that they were soft yellow, like a wolf’s eyes and, to his surprise the pupils were round and not slitted like a reptile’s. “He is your man? I thought he was an intruder. It’s my job to capture and question intruders.” Somehow her eyes widened even further, although Ciaran would have bet that it was physically impossible. “I have what?”
“You were feral,” Ciaran stood slowly. He’d slammed his hip solidly against the wall when he broke his wrist and it wasn’t happy about moving. On top of that, his stomach wound stabbed like fire from the exertion. “And you were dying. I’m sorry about what I had to do, but your mind had to be woken up.” He moved to stand in front of the Tantrasaur. “Eliana,” he said as he waved her back. She gave him a hard look and stepped away as she smoothly swung her poleaxe to port arms position where she could get it into action quickly if needed. “I am sorry that you were not awake and could not give consent for what happened, but I was informed that you had to be woken up. I can’t let you kill me, but you can hurt me if you wish retribution.” He heard Tamsin’s gasp and ignored it.
The Tantrasaur fingered the wound on her neck and it closed at her touch. “She was protecting you.” She swiped the blood off her skin with her palm and licked it clean, all the while not taking her eyes from his.
“And the other two, are they protecting you as well?”
Tamsin opened her mouth and Victoria grabbed her wrist hard enough to grind the bones together. The human gasped again as Ciaran spoke. “Something like that, although the black skinned woman isn’t part of my family. She travels with us for her own reasons.”
“You are man to that one and that one then.” She nodded towards Victoria and Eliana in turn.
“You are not one of Sukebe’s generals.” It was not a question.
“I will try not to lie to you, so no, I am not.”
“You said you were.”
“You were getting ready to break my neck. I’d have sworn the sun was purple if it kept me alive. But I will not try to lie to you again.”
“You had sex with me.” He nodded. “I do not remember it. I was told that sex with a man would be something I would like. How can I like something if it’s so boring I do not remember it?”
Eliana laughed. “Sister, you were not awake. You were dying when we found you.”
The Tantrasaur frowned at Ciaran, who nodded. “She’s right. When we found you, you were unconscious from dehydration. I was told I should awaken your mind before we woke up your body, lest you kill me when you woke up. While I don’t always agree with her, I do, for the most part, trust Victoria’s advice.”
“What happens to me now?”
“I was hoping you’d come with us.”
She frowned. “Waking my mind up didn’t save you. I almost killed you. I say that you having sex with me while I was asleep and me almost killing you when I woke up will balance the scales. I desire no vengeance.”
“I like that idea,” he said cautiously.
“This sex will not always involve sticking things in my ass, will it?”
He smiled. “That had nothing to do with sex. It was giving you water. It was the only way to rehydrate you.”
“I am glad it had nothing to do with sex. It still feels very uncomfortable.” She cocked her head. “So these two are my sisters, you are my man and you are a wizard.” She smiled. “Good.”
Ciaran frowned. “I am not a wizard.”
“You commanded me to pee and I did. If that is not magic, what is it?”
Tamsin laughed. “You didn’t, Ciaran.”
He smiled weakly. “It was all I could think of.”
“What are you two talking about?” The Tantrasaur looked from one to the other. “What happened to me?”
“It’s the power of suggestion,” Ciaran explained. “When she had me in a headlock I asked her if she had to pee. I just wanted free of her. If someone wakes up or is heavily asleep for a while, asking them if they have to pee makes them think about how full their bladder might be. If it’s full, often their bladder sends them warning signs that they suddenly have to go the bathroom.”
Tamsin nodded. “It’s the same thing as telling someone not to think about their tongue or breathing.”
“Do not think about my tongue?” The Tantrasaur blinked. She slowly licked her lips and nodded. “I see. Things you are not consciously aware of being brought to conscious attention. Amusing.” Her expression changed. “Will sex with you ever happen when I am awake?”
Eliana laughed. “Yes, he will and soon.”
“I have a question.” Eliana looked at Ciaran. “I was feral and you awakened my mind. Did I give consent?”
“Oh, yes you did.” Victoria grinned. “As soon as you realized what he wanted to do, you couldn’t help enough.”
“That was smart of me.” Elaina yawned suddenly. “I don’t think I’m supposed to be on watch anymore.”
“It’s Tamsin’s turn,” Victoria said. “I was supposed to spell Ciaran watching our new sister. Do you have a name?”
The Tantrasaur shook her head. “I do not. Will I?”
“Yes. I am Victoria and that is Eliana. The human woman is Tamsin.”
“She is human? Is she an intruder?” The Tantrasaur flexed her fingers. “I am supposed to catch and question intruders before taking them to the brig.”
“What is your job,” Ciaran asked.
“I am part of Security.” She lifted her head proudly. “With the drawdown due to the war and the station becoming almost uninhabited, I became the chief. My designation became Security One. How does the war go?”
Ciaran sighed. “I bet you’re hungry.”
The Tantrasaur blinked and nodded firmly. “I have not eaten in many weeks.”
Ciaran smiled at Tamsin’s surprise. “She has the ability to convert sunlight into food. I’m not sure it’s really photosynthesis, but it’s pretty close.” He motioned towards the table where he’d been dozing. “Then sit down over there and I will fill you in on what’s been going on while I fix you something to eat.” He chuckled. “I’d made what I thought was enough food to feed you too when I cooked earlier, but Eliana’s capacity to eat is still more than I’m used to cooking for.”
Victoria – Angel
Eliana – Samhain
Security One - Tantrasaur