Oct. 31st, 2012 06:45 pm
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[personal profile] keaalu posting in [community profile] good_as_gold
(Original post date: November 08, 2008.)

A/N: Arrgh dammit Skywarp get out of my brain for JUUUUST another 19 days so I can finish this...
Late late late, omg! :(


     Sei headed down to Ardea’s little docking bay the instant permission had been given for Brennan and Victora to come aboard. Their ship was a scuffed little thing – a runabout not really designed for long distance travel, and in dire need of repair. He resolved to help them get it more spaceworthy, once this had all blown over, if they wanted it.

     Victora was exactly the same as he remembered – no matter that her hair had been artificially straightened and her clothing was more modern, she behaved just the same. It was almost as if she’d not seen him for years! She gave a squeal of delight at seeing him, launched herself bodily of the ship’s loading ramp and attached herself around his chest, all six limbs wrapped around him. “Ah, Sei! Precious jewel, how are you?! It has been far, far too long a time since we last met up!” The words flowed out of her as if someone had opened a dam.

     “It is good to see you, too, friend,” Sei clucked, amusedly, and nibbled at her ears where they protruded through her curls. “You are both in good health?”

     She allowed herself another few self-indulgent moments clinging to him before finally letting herself back to the ground. “Very much so,” she confirmed, vehemently. “Life above the waves is treating us both well, and you have no idea how relieved I am never to have to eat that revolting, slimy fish ever again!”

     “Oh, I think I can imagine it quite easily,” Sei demurred, amusedly. “Even if I did not know your previous history, I do not think it would take any particular stretch of the imagination. Besides…” He gave her a nose-wrinkled look of distaste. “I thought those fish were foul, and I did not have to eat them!”

     “Now, Tora, I am quite sure the good doctor doesn’t need you climbing him,” Brennan commented, emerging from the interior of the vessel. He strode down off the ramp and offered one of four hands in a jovial handshake. “Good to see you, friend. I just wish it could have been under better circumstances!”

     “No-one wishes that more than I,” Sei agreed, grimly. “But with out combined efforts, that may be a fact soon to change, correct?” He easily picked up the heavy case Tora was waddling down the ramp with, and gestured towards the corridor.

     “Indeed!” Brennan nodded, falling into step beside his host.

     They dropped the bags off at the guest quarters, and Tora elected to stay behind to make use of the bathing facilities – Tas-umskel was a hot, dusty world, and (although Sei couldn’t see what she was making a fuss about) she said she felt caked with dust.

     “So, Bren,” Sei suggested, carefully, as they walked towards the lounge to swap information. “You and Tora have made things official, at last?”

     “Ah, you found out. Um, yes. We didn’t wish to burden you with our news, given your recent loss-”

     “Please, enough mincing around my feelings,” Sei cut in, waving his hands. “I have suffered a terrible loss, yes, but with your help I intend to ensure it is not a permanent one! We will find them.” He managed a tired smile. “So tell me. Your own news! I am so pleased you and Tora have chosen to take that final step together. You are good for each other, I think. What are your plans?”

     Brennan coloured, slightly. “We were planning on taking things slowly,” he said, carefully. “One step at a time, not rushing into things, you know…?”

     “Ah.” Sei nodded, and gestured for Brennan to precede him into the lounge. “So when is the wedding?”

     Brennan winced, and his cheeks went even brighter. “…next spring,” he admitted, with a wry smile. He’d forgotten how unnaturally astute the alien machine could be at picking subtle nuances out of peoples’ manners.

     “Tora’s idea?”

     “Of course. Who else?” He grinned and scratched the back of his head, settling into the chair opposite his friend. “To be honest, I do think she actually considers that to be ‘taking things slowly’. She has never been one to waste time on what she deems ‘unnecessary’…” He turned a coaster between his fingers, pursing his lips. “Before we go into too great a depth regarding my own love life, we ought to get down to business.”

     “Yes, councillor! To business,” Sei leaned forward onto his elbows, and gave Brennan a look. “This information you have. I should like to add it to the little I already know. It may make no difference, but I admit I am feeling more optimistic now than I have in a significant time!”

     “Well, first of all I ought to update you on the relevant history of my people over the last few months? It may make it more simple to relate to, over all?”

     “Go on.” Sei nodded. “I know the simpler details, of course, but I, ah… elected not to educate myself on the minutiae.”

     Brennan nodded. “And I think I can understand your reasons for doing so!” he agreed, wincing. “Well, let’s see. Once we crossed the border from Imperial territory into Coalition space, there was little debate over what we should do – a small group broke away, desiring to seek out our ancestral home, but most of my fellow Eumin petitioned for Coalition membership, as we felt we had nowhere else to go. We settled on a small colony world bordering on the Ondran system. And… ah, well, that was when the problems began.”

     “Problems?” Sei perked an ear, thoughtfully. “Of what nature?”

     “Well, a certain small group of Eumin felt they were owed a fresh start by the council, as it was the council that had forbidden efforts to leave the Bubble. They claimed that if people had been allowed to attempt to leave prior to your arrival, a rescue would have come quicker, and they would not have turned to crime to escape the drudgery of Bubble life.” Brennan glanced up, to note that Sei’s pale eyes had narrowed very slightly. “I see by the look in your eyes that you know who I speak of, doctor. The council, you will be relieved to hear, disagreed, especially when they took into account the, um… the ‘controversy’ regarding how you were treated…”

     Sei pouted. “There was no ‘controversy’ in my mind, Bren!” he interrupted, insulted. “Had I been biological like yourselves, I would have been given vastly more respect than that, regardless how useful an energy source I might have been!”

     Brennan gave him a reluctant look. “Something I am indeed sorry for, friend, but please. Save your ire?”

     Sei backed down, humbly. “Of course. Forgive me. Carry on.”

     “Well, once things came to light, something of a storm blew up – not only down to your personal treatment, and an amount of shame that our once-noble people could act so abhorrently, but also fear over might-have-beens. Consider – you were effectively your species’ ambassador to our people, correct? You behaved well, were courteous and respectful, behaved as you had been requested… you get the picture. And some of my kind reacted by treating you incredibly poorly.” Brennan pulled a face. “I would not have put it past someone else in your position to simply rescind on your promise, and leave us at the bottom of the ocean. Or even to take revenge on us! But you held up your end of the bargain, and for the first time in centuries my kin saw blue sky and clear air.” He studied the way his lower hands were laced against the table. “Was not flowers and sunshine for everyone, though, and this is where we come to the most important part of my tale. I am not sure if you are aware what happened to Yannis?”

     Sei pulled a face, wrinkling his nose. “I hope you will forgive me for my callousness, but I have tried my utmost to put him completely out of my mind,” he admitted. “I assume he was rescued, but that is all.”

     “Well, he was rescued, in a manner of speaking,” Brennan confirmed. “As in, he was removed from the bubble along with everyone else. After that, however… Well, let us say his criminal past finally caught up with him. Governor Bor managed to dump all the blame solely on Yannis’ shoulders, as I imagine was to be expected. He himself got away with a fairly clean record – on the proviso that he took an ‘early retirement’ and retired from public life,” Brennan smiled, grimly. “He had already arranged to make his fortune through public speaking, so retiring from the council was no great issue to him. Yannis, on the other hand…”

     Sei waited uneasily for Brennan to go on; that Yannis would have escaped with his life, he had utmost confidence, which nonetheless left him with mixed feelings. In a way, he was glad, because he didn’t want the man’s life on his conscience. On the other hand…

     “Yannis – and a small group of his closest associates – was outcast from Eumin society,” Brennan explained, bluntly. “They were loaded onto a stellar barge with a pre-programmed course, and set adrift.”

     “And whose idea was this?” Sei straightened, uneasily. “Would a penal colony not have been better suited? And how could a jury have agreed to such a punishment?”

     “There was no trial.” Brennan shook his head, tiredly. “The punishment was decided on by a group of councillors, who wanted to push the group to the back of their minds and pretend they did not exist. As I understand the scuttlebutt, the opinion is that Bor was afraid his own dealings would come to light if a fair trial were permitted.”

     “And… what? Did they seriously believe that he would not endeavour to return to pay them back?!” Sei was aghast at the idiocy of the Eumin council.

     “I am not entirely sure what they thought,” Brennan confessed, softly. “All I am sure of is Yannis’ capacity for vengeance. Which is why…” He leaned closer across the table. “…I believe he is behind this latest development.”


     Mirii had recovered enough of her calm to be sitting on the bed, not hiding away down beside it, when the stranger finally reappeared.

     “Ah, good. You’re looking much better,” he greeted, with a genial smile. “Now. Will you please accompany me?”

     “Accompany you to where?” she wondered, not diving back into hiding but nonetheless not making any move to follow.

     “To get you some new clothing,” he explained, gently. “Your own are quite torn!”

     Mirii looked down at herself, and confirmed sadly that he was right. The brief struggle had nonetheless damaged the fine fabric of her clothing, leaving a large gaping patch in her right side through which her skin was clearly visible.

     “Plus, I have something important to show you, although I will accept it if you do not wish to do so,” he went on, more softly. “I imagine you still fear me. A beautiful, noble woman such as yourself must attract attention from all manner of unsavoury beings.”

     Her gaze flickered, uneasily. “You probably should refrain from such talk,” she counselled, warily.

     “From what talk, my dear?”

     “That,” she replied, softly. “Those compliments. Those… terms of endearment. We barely know each other beyond a few words of greeting, and certainly do not know each other well enough for you to be so forward.”

     “Tch! Is it only permissible for a man to compliment a woman if he is married to her?” he chided. “How would a woman know the man she had met was her true love if no such endearments were ever passed?”

     She let her gaze drift downwards. “It is true that my dear Sei and I shared… ‘endearments’… during our courtship,” she agreed, warily. “But we are bonded. We always intended for such a thing! You? I do not know you. You do not know me!” She tucked one knee up against her chest, protectively.

     “I have always known you, dear,” the man admitted, as though it were some deep and terrible secret. “I hesitate to confess this, for fear of making you think of me as some terrible stalker, but I have watched you and feared for your safety for a long time.”

     Her eyes flickered again, and she tightened her hold around her leg. “Why should you fear for me?” she wondered, and had begun to sound… suitably anxious. “I have Sei to protect me. I have nothing to fear.”

     He smiled, although it looked… forced. “Indeed. And the fact he is your guardian is partly why I fear for your safety.”

     “I… I think you must be mistaken! You must be thinking of someone else,” she argued. “My dear Sei is no threat! My husband is no danger!” Her hair had fluffed up as she had spoken, and she slicked it back down with some degree of effort. “I am forced to conclude this is all just a case of mistaken identity. You are thinking of the wrong man!”

     He lowered his gaze, thoughtfully. “Well… it is possible, I imagine…” he agreed, quietly. “Although I have known an individual by the same name in the past… perhaps he was similar only in looks? I imagine such computer-minded organisms can be crafted in such a way they can look however the builder chooses, and such an intense, oily black is really quite visually striking. Perhaps the one that came to us beneath the ocean was merely a replica,” he nodded, sadly. “But my heavens, what a powerful brute of a machine it was. Most terribly strong, and so driven! It is a wonder he permitted you out of his sight.”

     “I think you must be mistaken,” Mirii agreed, softly, although she sounded… deeply uneasy. “My Sei is not a creature to be feared, he is a sweet and gentle being! Kind, and respectful. He allows – indeed, encourages! – me to do as I choose.”

     “I suppose the carrier wave could not penetrate to the depths of the ocean,” the man thought, softly. “Hum. Perhaps that would explain the differences in behaviour.”

     “…Carrier wave?” Mirii prompted.

     “Oh dear. Maybe I should have remained quiet. You… did not know?” he wondered, softly, and she felt a flash of uncertainty run through her. “About the experiment?”

     “What experiment?”

     “The, ah… the experiment you are part of.” He smiled, but it looked… tense. “The experiment they are conducting to determine if genuine, autonomous synthetic life is a possibility.”

     She clucked an uneasy laugh. “Of course it is possible. If I alone am not sufficient proof, you will see more before your very eyes if only you go to speak to Sei, to Iios. I am quite sure they will appropriately educate you!”

     “Yes, and that is what I fear,” he agreed, softly. “I do not desire to be quite so heavily, ah… indoctrinated… as your gentle self. Tell me, what do you know of the world that your… guardian… has not told you?”

     “I am not sure I understand you.” Mirii shrank back into the bedcovers. “Sei guides me, true. He gives me advice and guidance and tells me about the world! Is that so terrible?”

     “You do not elect to do your own research at times? Find things out that you want to find out?”

     “I-… well, I-… But-… I do not need to!” she flustered.

     “Oh, you poor dear,” he said, softly, covering her fingers briefly with his own, and Mirii felt a flicker of uncertainty at what he could possibly mean. “They keep you so very tightly under lock and key! Do they permit you to make any of your own decisions?”

     “They? Who are they?” Mirii challenged, then pursed her lips, poutily. She didn’t like where this conversation was going. “Of course I am permitted to make decisions. Sei actively encourages me to do so!”

     “Any yet he does not permit you out of his sight? To talk to other men of the same age? To even talk to other women? What is he so afraid of? That you will see him for what he is, and elect to make your own way? Without him?” He frowned, concerned. “I fear for your safety, dear. I should not like to see such a gentle, forgiving creature moulded into something she is not by all this… trickery.”

     Mirii gave a soft little noise of concern, and ducked her chin closer to her chest. “Sir, you are frightening me,” she informed him, feebly. “Please desist.” His words echoed uncomfortably close to what Sei always said – I fear that I am harming you, dear. I sent you away so I did not risk moulding you into something you are not! I do not desire that you become anything other than what you want to be.

     “They seem so very afraid, so very jealous that any one else might be friendly with you that they fill your head with great tomes of preposterous nonsense,” he said, sadly, and kissed her hand. It was a fact not lost upon him that for once, she didn’t snatch her fingers away… “They fill you full of propaganda, lie to you and invent untruths, and you never once argue with them?”

     “Stop this,” she pleaded, softly. “Cease your riddling. I do not understand what you want! What you want from me, what you want me to do. I do not understand!”

     He bowed his head. “Forgive me, bright one,” he apologised, and sounded so genuinely unhappy that she felt remorseful for scolding him. “I never intended to frighten you. It just… it pains me, to see one so innocent warped into something unnatural by unkind forces.” He looked up again, and at last met her gaze. “I will leave you in peace with your thoughts. All I ask is that you please remember, I do this only because I love you.” Again, he kissed her fingers, and was gone before she could summon the words to implore him to stay and explain himself.


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Good as Gold

February 2013

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