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[personal profile] keaalu posting in [community profile] good_as_gold
Original post date: 2nd November 2008, 17:02

A bit late, but this is two days' worth! Rock on, people.

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     Time-index:03:11:14.03 local-differential:00:00:05.28
     First interval of Winter, High Imperial Codex
     Well! What can I possibly say to quantify the significance of this date?
     I should confess this is one of the stranger diary entries I have felt compelled to write, but only because I had become convinced this day would never come! But at long last, here we are, back in Coalition Space. More importantly, at long last, Mirii and I are to be guests of honour at my brother’s Day of Union with Eri.
     After countless, innumerable moons of dithering, Iios has finally summoned the courage to ask Eria’dane’s hand. The one thing I would have thought easiest for him, just to say five simple words, was instead “the hardest thing he has ever done”, and I cannot see why that would be. I could understand it if he were more like me! I waited far too long to ask my little Mirii to join my side, but that is just what I am. Indecisive, I should say. Overly concerned with the doing the logical thing that is right. In my defence, I suppose I could say I was hesitant because I feared what it may do to her, but ultimately I should put it down to plain idiocy from my part. I have nearly lost her so many times, to lose her simply because I failed to take the initiative to say “I love you” would have been unforgivable.
     Ah, me. See me take another tangent? It is not me I desire to talk of; it is my brother who I opened this notepane to discuss. I still cannot put into words how he frustrates me. I suppose it is concern that he will not live up to his promise? So many great things that he could become, and yet he dithers! Would often rather run himself in circles and defer a decision than take a straight line and just do something. I still do not understand why he found this so difficult! He is the most forthright and boldest cob I know, never one to shy from a challenge, and yet he took longer to ask Eri for what they both wanted above all else than we have even known each other!
     I suppose it could be argued that to make such a commitment would have been the death knell for his old lifestyle. Perhaps it is solely that which made him fear taking that last step to her side! To say ‘I am yours, and yours alone’ would have been a difficult commitment for him, I imagine, given his tendency to always be looking towards the brighter stars, and to want those things he did not consider he could ask from her.
     I wonder how close he came to losing her altogether? Ah, I should not voice such things, it is imprudent to ask, and gossip of such a nature is not something I desire – and ultimately I would only be saying “I told you so”. It thankfully did not take long for Eri to accept the invitation. I must confess to a degree of concern that she would not agree, that she would have already started to rove and look elsewhere – communication across the border has never been easy, and with my brother’s lack of updates I was almost convinced that she had tired of waiting and left him, after all this time. I see why so many of my biological kin have a pathological need to know things! To not know allows the mind to invent many terrible things to fill the gaps.
     Speaking of the border, Mirii and I have been given special dispensation by Domina Iianie to cross it to attend the festivities, although we have been reliably informed by her Aide that remaining here for any ‘unnatural’ length of time will risk us both being branded social deviants, and arrest warrants being issued in preparation for our return home. I am not sure what ‘unnatural’ is being taken to mean, in this instance, but I am fairly sure our traditional bureaucracy will mean I end up apologising profusely to our Government for ‘outstaying my welcome’ regardless how quickly I return. I just hope Iianie will continue to be as moderate as I have come to expect from her when I go to apologise to her. I feel comfortable in the knowledge that regardless what precautions I take, something will go horribly wrong, because it always does when my sibling is involved.
     I probably should confess that I had originally debated remaining here for what my peers would define as an ‘unnatural’ length of time, because I do miss my dear relatives terribly, but Iianie is the most moderate Imperial I have known, and I feel ashamed at the idea of taking advantage of her good nature. I should not like to lose her as a friend because of my own selfish nature.
     Ergo, I feel… compelled, as it were, to ‘behave myself’ as instructed, if only for Mirii’s sake. I do not know what I could possibly say in my defence if I were to get us both arrested on our return solely because of my self-indulgence, and I could not forgive myself if Mirii should be branded outcast and deviant because of me. She feared coming here in the first instance! To never be permitted to return home-
     Ach, again. I seem to have developed the knack of tormenting myself with what-ifs. We will return home safely, after the festival – and may feel comfortable enough to at last decide to plan our own? Mirii’s and my Union was not so much “low key” as “barely noticeable” – the legalities of it were all compliant, but it was hardly the lavish “ceremony” my brethren would have enjoyed. Mirii was happy, of course, but then she is usually happy. I really must try to convince her that she does not always have to consider all attention to be acceptable!
     The festivities themselves will not be for a good half-month, Coalition Standard Time, which will give us plenty of time to get ready. Mirii knows very little of this world, and it is a constant source of both fear and fascination to her. The more she learns of other cultures, the less… shocked… she may be when she learns of Vullish marriage customs. Hm. Perhaps I should broach the subject with her sooner!
     I am still undecided if being here fills me with joy, or dread. I am happy beyond words at being back with my family! Because I have missed them terribly – sweetest Eri, the most noble person I have known (and certainly one of the most patient, for putting up with Iios!), and my brother, my idiot, argumentative, wonderful rogue of a twin. Conversely, I am filled with dread because it was here that I allowed myself to dabble in terrible things. Things I should not mention here, I think, lest word gets back to the Territorial Council. There are those who would do anything in their power to see me reduced to nothing. Hmm.
     It is reassuring to see that Iios has grown up a lot since we last met, which makes a wonderful change from the norm. It is particularly nice to think how I will not have to pursue him around and patch up his disasters quite so often! I have run out of fingers to count the number of times he has tied himself literally into knots with one scheme or another. At least, to revise that, he still has his schemes, but no quite so many self-destructive ones.
     And little Mirii seems to be enjoying herself, at long last. She was so subdued, so anxious when we arrived, that I was convinced I had perpetuated yet another grave error in judgement, but she has finally relaxed. She is even beginning to see some of her fellow sapients as equals, not dangerous animals to be feared and reviled.
     And at last, at long, long last, she has finally started making her own decisions – our disastrous “holiday” seems to have taught her far more than I ever could have. Some days I could dance when she disagrees with me! They are little decisions, of course – what to cook for her parents, when they come to visit, what clothes to wear, a small new piece of jewellery from the market – but the more I let her culture her inventive side, the more daring she becomes with it. It seems unwise to say I hope she becomes wilful, but then I do hope she does!
     Akin to this, Iios has taken her shopping, to keep her entertained while I sort out our paperwork, but I refuse to contemplate what they might bring home! Fate can all but guarantee it will not be anything normal, although every now and then he does have the occasional gem of an idea among his frequent moments of lunacy. Last time he took her out, she came back with her hair cut, and she looks particularly elegant for it. Never something I would have considered encouraging her to do, if I am honest with myself! She had always looked so refined with long hair, I did not consider a more traditional style would suit her so well. (Ah, me, am I resenting my brother for just this once having a better idea than I?)
     Ordinarily I would have to trust my sibling to behave himself, which is never a wise thing to do, but Mirii has not been slow to cry foul every time he has thus far “behaved inappropriately in public”, and I do not think any stories of outrageous behaviour will reach my ears today. (What is ‘outrageous’ when Iios is concerned, anyway? Every time I think I have his mindset worked out, he does something exponentially more shocking and I have to get back to work on finding a ‘baseline’.)
     I am worried that Mirii is rather in awe of my brother – I hope this is not a bad thing! His captaincy may have forced him to ‘grown up’, as it were, but he still has the unsettling habit of allowing a bad idea to develop into a full-blown ‘project’. I cannot help but worry that he will now have a willing assistant for whatever his latest silly project might be. I hope on all our Universal Truths that they do not come back having both disgraced themselves in public because of it. For an Aramus captain to be filmed in skimpy lingerie and feathers, pole-dancing outside a busy restaurant at midday is bad enough, but I do not think I would be able to find a large enough rock to hide beneath if he roped Mirii in as well.
     …I have got to stop tormenting myself with imagined horrors like this. They are only shopping. Shopping! What harm can possibly come of it? That she comes back with a wardrobe of inappropriate clothing she will never wear? Hardly on a par with the sort of social disgrace Iios is so good at.
     The more I think about it, the more I feel I ought to have gone with them – if only to maintain an air of sensibility! – but I must get our paperwork in order. My old friends here have been more than accommodating, even filling out most sections of the dozen forms I have here, and I do not want to be ungrateful and defer the final sections until we have the bureaucrats breathing down our necks. The quicker I get the paperwork completed, the quicker Mirii and I are ‘legal aliens’-

     Ding-ding.
     Behind his desk in the guest quarters he shared with Mirii, Doctor Sei paused his recording, and lifted his head. That had been the doorchime. “Hello?”
     “It’s only me, Sei,” a familiar voice replied, muffled through the bulkhead. “I haven’t had the chance to say hi since you arrived!”
     “Eri!” He stood up fast enough to knock his chair away; it scooted off across the floor on its casters. “Come in, come in, please-!”
     There was a soft noise of amusement from outside, and the door slid silently back to reveal the xenobotanist he’d been longing to see ever since arriving here days ago. She’d not found time to tear herself away from her duties, because the work didn’t stop for visitors, and she was labouring hard at helping plan the revitalising of an old colony ravaged by flooding. She was still dressed in her grimy worksuit, so had clearly been looking forwards to seeing him enough to come straight down from the transport.
     He tried to keep them under control, but Sei’s emotions gave a big kick inside him at seeing her. Eri – Eria’dane Dawnstep – had once been a pure-blooded biological Vulline, until the accident that almost killed her. Saving her required putting her mind into a non-biological body – and that had been the one thing that had put her relationship with Iios in greatest jeopardy, awaking to find a Kiravai face staring back at her. But they crawled their way up through the murk, sorted things out, and were even now rebuilding her bit-by-bit as she’d looked before her accident.
     It had so far left her looked trapped somewhere between Kiravai and Vul – primarily Vullish, with neat, rounded little feet in comparison to Sei’s broad, splayed toes, a long, thickly furred tail where Sei had a feathery little stub, triangular ears that stuck out from the side of her head, and cloaked in a velvet fuzz of short hair, where Sei’s skin was totally smooth. Her face was still more Kiravai than Vul, though, with a long, narrow snout and large blue eyes.
     No matter that she looked radically different to how she had looked when he last saw her, Sei recognised her instantly. In spite of his efforts to the contrary, to maintain a polite aloofness, his face broke into a delirious grin and he all but fell out of his chair in a rush towards her. “Eri.”
     “Sei,” she greeted, with a smile, and allowed him to envelop her in an overexcited hug. It had been over a year since they had last seen each other, and emotions still ran very hot. She knew that no matter how devoted Sei was to Mirii, he still held a very large candle for her, as well. “How are you, love?”
     “All the better for seeing you, my dear,” he replied, squeezing almost hard enough to still the temperature bellows in her chest. “Sweet Ii, you have no idea how much I have missed you.”
     She laughed, and endured it. “You know, I’m beginning to get the idea.”
     “Can you spare a few minutes from your schedule?” he wondered, leaning back so he could look her in the eye. “We have a small lifetime of things to catch up on!”
     She couldn’t help smiling at that. Dear Sei, always interested, no matter what the subject. “There’s not a whole lot to tell,” she replied, honestly. “Xenobotany is interesting work, sure, but the subtle nuances of different alien plants aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.”
     “I could listen to you talk about your plants for ever,” he argued, honestly.
     “Oh, I see, I’m just an old windbag?”
     His eyes widened. “That-… I mean-… insulting you wasn’t my intention-!” he protested.
     She gave him a friendly slap. “Stop taking me so seriously,” she scolded, playfully. “And more seriously, I think I could very easily bore you to tears about plants, given the opportunity.”
     She didn’t get the opportunity, though. “Doctor Sei?” an unfamiliar voice interrupted.
     Sei looked down at the intercom. It sounded like Velia, Ardea’s little Zaari security officer. “Yes, commander?”
     “Just notifying you, as requested,” the fal replied, genially. “The captain’s shuttle is on its way back. He gave us special dispensation to allow you to join us on the bridge, if you like.”
     “Thank you, Velia. I will be with you shortly.” Sei glanced sidelong at Eri. “Will you join me?”
     Eri squeezed his fingers. “No no, you go ahead. I’m far too filthy to want to show my face up there just yet.”

     First Officer Hauura ‘met’ Sei as he emerged from the lift and onto the Ardea’s little bridge – although she didn’t so much greet him as block the way and glare suspiciously down on him for a moment or two, before finally stepping aside and letting him past. Hauura was Xniki, a heavy-set, female-dominant trigenous kyos-raun who massed easily twice as much as even the unendingly tall Iios. She was never a sweet-tempered individual at the best of times, her conflicting genders leaving her with a very wonky biology, but right now she was square in the middle of an androgen-flare that made her even more testy and hormonal than normal.
     To cap it all, she was a lexical-gustatory synaesthesiac, which meant she got on especially badly with Vuls, whose scratchy, barky voices put a sour taste in her mouth. She got on better with her current captain than she had her previous commanding officer, an Aurean with naturally bad diction and a preference for his natural tongue that all but set her screaming each time she shared a duty roster with him. She’d often growl at Iios and had on occasion been known to actually wallop him when he was deliberately riling her, but for some reason natural Ve-hei’ya “tasted” nice, and she not only tolerated his incomprehensible babbling in his native language but actually invited it.
     “Good morning, Hauura,” Sei greeted, speaking to her in her natural language, Xanu, and bowing deeply to her.
     She rumbled deeply and bowed her own head. “And a fair morning to you, Oilskin,” she replied, gruffly, and gave him a suspicious look. “Silver Tongue has given his permission for you to remain on the bridge?”
     Of course, names in Xanu usually came out descriptive; ‘Silver Tongue’ must be Iios.
     Sei flicked an ear and jingled his earrings. “He has, and Velia invited me,” he confirmed, wishing he’d had the foresight to ask Hauura’s traditional name. She’d probably settle quicker if he’d showed a willingness to follow her people’s customs – right now he probably looked like an insufferably traditionalist Kiravai. Following Hauura down the curve towards the visitor’s terminal, he noticed Velia was holding up a databoard with a couple of gold words printed on it; Long Fluke. He grinned in spite of himself, and bowed his head. “I appreciate the honour of being permitted here, Long Fluke.”
     Her face softened almost immediately, and she inclined her head. “It is not a problem, provided you refrain from getting in the way,” she instructed. “Your brother speaks highly of you, Oilskin.”
     “Commander? We’re not getting a hail from the captain’s shuttle,” Ardea’s new Second Officer interrupted. Pau’saifu was ginger-furred dar-Vul, and had already upset Hauura a dozen times in the few weeks since he’d first been posted here. He stood behind at the comms rail, his ears swivelled backwards and a concerned grin pulling his lips away from his teeth. “I can’t raise them on any channel.”
     Hauura narrowed her eyes. “Not normal,” she agreed. “Are they in visual range?”
     “I think-… yes.” Pau twiddled at his controls, and the small vessel appeared, centred on the screen against the backdrop of stars. “Well, the ship looks okay. Could it just be interference?”
     “From what?” Hauura gave him a glare. “Hold your barking, Rusted Back. We would pick up any interference as well, would we not? And I hear no interference.”
     “The ship itself looks undamaged, though,” Velia pointed out. “Do you think he’s just ignoring us?”
     “Wouldn’t be the first time,” Pau agreed, muttering under his breath.
     Hauura flared her frills at him. “You do not have to remain aboard, crewman-” she scolded, but didn’t get the chance to say much.
     There was a flicker of light from the screen, and even as everyone turned to look there was a second more emphatic flicker and a bubble of bluish-white light bloomed silently and briefly in the centre of the image, overloading the visual sensors.
     The silence as they studied the blank white screen was a shocked, breaths-held sort of silence; it was as if everyone was just waiting for the screen to reset and the ha-ha-look-at-you-all-sat-there-worrying face of the captain, amused they’d fallen for his prank. But once the flare of light had died away and the visual sensors reset, there was nothing left but large chunks of debris, spinning slowly away.
     The diminutive security officer recovered quickest. “Quickly, get a traction bubble in place,” she instructed, hoarsely. “We need every last piece of that yacht to analyse what went wrong.”
     “I know what went wrong already,” Sei spoke up, softly, and every face turned to look up at him. “The ship was sabotaged.”
     “Speak, Oilskin,” Hauura demanded. “Explanation.”
     “There was no core annihilation,” the dark Siinu pointed out, slumping to a sitting position at the side of the bridge. “It looked to me like primitive explosives, packed on board and remotely detonated.”
     “…but why would somebody do that?” Pau wondered, grimly.
     “Does it really matter why?” he despaired. “All that matters is that someone has!”

     Even before Sei reached her quarters, Eri sensed something had gone wrong. She’d been towelling her long hair dry when the flicker of light caught her eye, but she’d not been quick enough to see what had caused it. She’d resolved to ask Sei if he knew what it was, once he and Iios arrived at the captain’s quarters, but ultimately Sei saved her the job of remembering.
     “…eri?”
     She looked up. Sei stood in her doorway, looking bandy-legged, shellshocked, and fear twisted violently on her insides. Something has happened. Something bad has happened.
     “What is it, Sei?” she asked, barely daring to voice the words.
     “There has… been an accident,” he managed to get the words out, and promptly collapsed to a tangle of dark limbs in the doorway.

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Would have been sooner, but my neighbours had fireworks. Woo!

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