Disclaimer: I apologise in advance for any spelling/grammar - this is an entirely unedited Work In Progress and therefore my dyslexia will be on full display. ^_^; If I publish this, I'll get it edited, but for now, enjoy the very, very first rough draft - let's have fun!
If you fall behind,
It is good to have friends to wait awhile with you. But what if you have no one. What then, do you do?
If you are alone on your journey, Remember, the Sun, the Moon, the Stars - they are with you.
It became obvious rather quickly that Little Doc had performed the boarding process several times before and partook in it now with a sense of boredom and detachment. As they entered one of the conveyer rails leading into the Celetris, Tyrin’s own excitement drained away as the taint of negative, foul emotions from the litins bunched up around him focused on Little Doc.
The vernberni pervaded an air of nonchalant, but he was sure it was receiving the same fierce wave of hatred, distrust and disgust fixated entirely in its direction.
“How do you deal with this level of vitriol?” Tyrin murmured as they stepped off the conveyer.
“By sadistically knowing that they have no choice but to be treated by me or die. Truly, the Captain is a cruel sentient.” Little Doc flashed a grin.
Tyrin frowned. “Wait. So, you are telling me, on a ship this size, you are the only medical personnel?”
“But the Celetris is huge. It would need a medical team of at least twenty personnel.”
“Congratulations, you have deduced a problem. Here, have a candy.” A small piece of hard rock candy was flung at him. Tyrin snatched it from the air.
He stared at the sweet. “Has anyone ever told you that you are really condescending.”
Little Doc threw a grin over its shoulder as it floated down a corridor. It had no need to dodge dashing personnel for they avoided it entirely. Tyrin was once again running to catch up. This was all he was going to be doing—running to catch up with everyone around him—he was sure of it.
“The litin’s medical field has suffered severely ever since the Vernberni War. It seemed there was an active push to drive young litins into the Military and Warrior Prides. We of The Cluster saw it as an opportunity to offer you aid, however, no litin thus far as desired to step forward to learn from me. It has been most disappointing. I had hoped for a whole team by now.”
“Wouldn’t trying to recruit at the Universities where the Science and Technology Pride resides be more beneficial to your cause?”
Little Doc studied him with a raised brow. Tyrin doubted it was going to be the last time that he received a look that allied him to be some sort of creature of low intelligence.
“You think what you are feeling now is vitriol? Well. I could not walk into a University without causing a riot. In this case, brawn trumps brain. I will happily take the Military than the stuck-up lunatics your so-called higher education spits out.”
Tyrin sighed, dragging his claws through his tuffs of hair. He had never thought he would ever be grateful for his sheltered upbringing, having always considered it a hindrance when dealing with larger litin society. Now it felt like a boon, to be biased only by his own prides fear of persecution.
“Alright, so I have a lot of work to do.”
Little Doc laughed. “Oh, you will not be conquering this mountain in a day, so let us just enjoy the moment, shall we.”
The vernberni had led them to what appeared to be an observation deck, long and wide, with panoramic windows opening deep enough to be stood upon to create the illusion that one was suspended above the shipyard. Tyrin’s tail vibrated. “Wow.”
“Children get excited over such small things.” Little Doc settled its bag down beside a seat, the golden rings that kept it floating faded. It landed with a heavy thud on the cushion. Tyrin frowned. For something so small and so delicate, the indent it made in the seat seemed excessive. He squeezed his paws, trying to loosen tight muscles. There would be time enough to unravel the mysteriousness of his caretaker. Right now he had to take in the moment, a moment he had been striving for since the horizon had burned in a plume of fire and smoke.
Since his brother—
Settling a paw on the window Tyrin rested his forehead on the glass. It was warm to his forever cold body. In the spaceyard below litins scurried about, leaving the vicinity of the launching bay. Somewhere overhead his ears picked up the sound of the countdown being announced through the intercom. Tyrin tipped his head to the crystal blue sky. A beautiful sky to be surging forward into.
His answer was somewhere out there, and the Celetris was going to take him to it. Tyrin breathed in deeply. This is it, Zy. I’m standing on a pinnacle, and I really hope I don’t fall.
There was no warning.
The moment the countdown ended they left planet-side. He was momentarily floating—at least—he thought he was.
The build-up of energy that had launched the Celetris slammed into him. Tyrin stepped forward, clutching his chest, positive that his heart had burst right out. He stared at Little Doc. The vernberni watched him, head tilted to one side, in a curious and analytical manner. As his world faded to black the faintest of voices reached him.
Help me. Please.
He tried to snatch at it, with the full force of the burning engine of the Celetris behind him, perhaps he could have reached it. If only he had remained conscious for just a few seconds longer.
Tyrin came awake begrudgingly. Very aware that he was not in familiar surroundings. Though it had been rotations since he had slept in his kittenhood room within Zlatanburg, it’s great stone walls and long corridors remained forever his source of familiarity and grounding. It rather felt as though he had lost those very foundations and now, he floated, aimlessly, with only the awful clawing of ice biting its way through his skin. His foot-paws and legs had frozen themselves stiff. Such an occurrence had not happened since he been a cub, unable to regulate and temper the volume of his crafts intake. It took effort to shake the limbs awake, kicking away the illusion of frost until racing pins filled that void.
“Well. That was a fine show you put on.” A whirring voice droned out. “Our new Ships Counsellor collapsing on launch. Yes. Yes. I can see that going down swimmingly well. At this rate, you are going to be discovered and flung out an air-lock faster than I can perform brain surgery.”
Tyrin groaned into the silk pillow beneath him. “Does the Captain know?”
A gentle touch soothed the fur of his arm, and Little Doc’s alien mind brushed against his own. He had been unprepared the first time, but now, the foreign buzzing was restful, like a warm beverage on a cold night.
“You are simply getting your space-legs. She is not overly concerned. Many will not admit it, but you aren’t the first to fall flat on their face at launch.”
He doubted it was for the same reason though. His craft still sparked and popped, as if firecrackers had been let loose inside his skull. He had been taught from a young age to decompartmentalise the bombardment of outside stimuli. Things a normal sentient would never have noticed a crafter was forced to contend with. Powerlines buzzed in a constant, irritating manner that he had always likened to someone dragging claws over a slate-board. Anything that power nibbled at had become second nature to ignore along with the mental melody of sentient minds.
Now the immense beat of the Celetris’ engine was near impossible for him overlook. If this was what drove a crafter mad—
“Thank you,” he managed the choke out the words.
“But, quickly get those space-legs, marakdor.”
Tyrin dropped back into the comfort of the medical bed. Marakdor. He was sure that was a giant slug found on one of the moons of the Kyrna-nat System. It seemed so strange that a vernberni used it as an insult.
A small cup was held out in front of him.
“These are for the headache I imagine you have.”
“Ah…thanks.” He swallowed the pills.
He had not noticed it before, but now that the lights were dimmed around him, the glow of the vernberni’s inner mechanical interior burned through the habit it wore like the lambent light of the sun being eclipsed.
Little Doc’s slender hand gave his shoulder a pat, the metal crafting them softly clanking. “Get some rest. You are not needed until tomorrow’s briefing. Try and sort out your craft in the meantime.”
He glanced at the clock on the adjacent wall, blinking numerals at him. He had a good block of time until the next shift. Closing his eyes, he pictured the gradual building of a wall, stone by stone. Heavy stones, strong stones, like the stones his ancestors had mined to build the great Zlatanburg from. They would muffle the sound of the Celetris’ engine. He would need to maintain it, reinforce it every day, but as long as the wall held, the terrifying force behind it would be dammed.
Over the course of the next few hours Tyrin watched curiously as several military personnel tiptoed into the medical rooms, hesitantly inquiring after medication for nausea and headaches. Little Doc was kind, gentle, its entire demeanour altering with whomever it was that walked through the doors of the medical ward. Was the crass, sarcastic little vern the real personality?
A young female litin walked past his bed, glancing his way and he smiled hesitantly as she paused.
“A bit early to be confined to the medical ward, isn’t it?” her voice was soft, considering the reduced lights and the stillness in the ward. He appreciated the darkness while nursing the ache in his skull. He shuffled upright, touching his forehead with a wince.
“You would think that, yes.”
“Ah, launch sickness…” she clicked her tongue. “Gets some folk worse than others. You’ll be back to normal soon.”
He smiled. “Thank you for the reassurance.”
“Going by your chrome-suit colour, you’re a bridge officer. So, I presume we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.” She motioned to his suit and he glanced at the coloured lines running in seams throughout the attire. Three colours were apparent in his own, he presumed the blue was for his position in the Medical and Science Division, the red for his fabricated life within the Warrior Pride but the yellow had been a mystery to him.
“The bridge, right, of course…” he murmured. “I’m on the bridge.”
“Navigator Linou,” she offered, placing paw over chest in a salute. “Military Pride.”
“Ship’s Counsellor, Tyrin, Warrior Pride.”
Her brow lifted as she studied him with pursed lips. “Warrior Pride, really, with those horns. Bet you had the worst time of it.”
He shrugged. “I managed.”
The scoffing sound she made was mockingly bitter. “Sure, Shorty.”
Shorty. Right. He was already getting his horns and height mocked and he had not even left the medical bay. He raised his brow, waiting for her next comment.
“Officer Linou.” Little Doc spoke up from its desk. “I do believe you are due back on the bridge in ten minutes.”
Her tail flicked, gaze refusing to shift in the direction of the vernberni. “Appreciated, Doctor.” Linou turned stiffly, waving a paw over the door’s activation panel. “See you around, Counsellor.”
Tyrin sighed, slumping back onto the bed. He felt like an imposter. Fake—false—masked—did he even know who he really was? No—not really—
He held out a paw, grasping at the unseen enormity of space beyond the walls. If he could just reach it, the cold, icy grip that clutched him, then maybe he would discover who he was.
Something sparked and nearby, Little Doc let loose a string of sharp, loud notes. Tyrin sat up sharply, only to bend forward as his head spun at the sharp movement.
“What happened?” He peered up, squinting.
Little Doc was floating around a nearby piece of smoking equipment.
“You caused a surge.” The vernberni snapped. “Keep your craft to yourself, litin. My devices are sensitive.”
“That has never happened before.” Was it because of how unstable he felt?
“Most likely because you have never experienced a situation such as this.”
“I am so confused.”
“Yes, that is why you are here, to learn things.” Little Doc shot back. “You will never expand your horizons unless you step beyond the boundaries of your own knowelage.”
“Is that how you have become such a fountain of information.” Tyrin muttered.
“When one has been around as long as I have, much is learnt about many useless things.” Little Doc floated back to its desk, slipping into its high seat easily to continue flipping through files of holo-slates on space-personnel.
“Will you be on the bridge with me?”
“No. My place is here.”
“As I stipulated before, you cannot hide behind my rings.”
“I know. I know.” Tyrin grumbled, rolling around. “It is just, the bridge seems so overwhelming…I…I…I am not used to being in such close proximity to so many litins.”
“This is what you signed up for.”
It was, and he was here now, and he could not go back.
“I imagine a considerable amount of stress happens within the bridge. Your presence will be a rather nice balm for the Captain, so focus on the positive impact you shall have.”
“I suppose.” He sighed. It was an experiment, after all. He had only ever worked with large crowds, the mass emotions of cities, attentively guiding and shifting those enormous groups away from violence or negative reactions.
It had felt detached and aloft. He was a cog in a system that kept itself turning. He had never had to face those in whom he had manipulated. This would be different. It was a confined space—tight—without escape—and each individual he would confront. This was entirely different from being detached and alone.
“I…I don’t know…if I can do this…” he choked out.
“Why are you doing this?” Little Doc asked.
Tyrin rubbed at his aching eyes. “To stop the unnatural number of deaths accruing within the litin population while on long hall exploration expeditions—”
“No.” From his desk on the far side of the medical bay, Little Doc looked up. Its piecing, mechanical eyes flickered and clicked as they focused in on him. “That is the excuse an exhausted military captain and a stressed bureaucrat have come up with to get you aboard this vessel. What I want to know is why you, a young litin in his prime, on the crest of his life, is risking it all?”
He stared at the white ceiling, the rolling waves of light from Little Doc’s medical equipment acting like the shimmering reflections of moonlight off silver surfs. He could almost taste the cool salt in his mouth and feel his foot-paws sinking into the damp, black sand. Cold water—icy cold—from the glaciers. Cold like the ice in his veins. Cold like the chill that never left him. Cold like the emptiness of space that had always called to him.
“Because…because I want to find something…”
“Something or someone?” Little Doc asked.
Tyrin frowned and eased up in the bed.
“What do you mean?”
“There is a difference.”
“I…” Tyrin stared down at his shaking paws. “I…I don’t…I don’t know…”
He heard Little Doc’s loud scoff. “Then I suggest you do some meditation and find out just what it is, otherwise, you are simply going to be stumbling around in the void.”
Even without a mental connection—Tyrin got the sense Little Doc was speaking from experience.
“It is a very big void.” Tyrin murmured.
“It is.” Little Doc replied. “It is, indeed.”
There was a saying his kalathra had often quoted to him, something from the ancient texts of the Tyrin Pyramids.
“There are many fish in the sea.”
It was supposed to be wisdom in regards to seeking out a life-mate, but Tyrin considered it the most ridiculous piece of advice from The Pioneers to have ever been quoted at him. He had looked out at Ghaliya from space upon his first flight as a cub to the holiday moon and realised just how small he was—as a fish—and how big that sea was.
He had no hope of finding anything or anyone, even with a craft. He had resigned himself to being one very lonely fish. A lonely fish, surrounded by a maelstrom of minds he could constantly sense and feel, full of emotions all tangled up in tight balls of strings that he had to meticulously untangle. Tyrin glared at the dimmed ceiling lights of the medical bay. It was only the first cycle and already he was reeling from the chaotic state of the crew.
How was he supposed to stop the rage he could feel, shimmering and bubbling just below the surface in a festering miasma. Turning over he groaned into the pillow beneath him. “I am going to be eaten alive.”
“Send me an invite when it happens, so I can watch.” Little Doc’s whirling voice piped up. Tyrin sat up, glaring at the vernberni as it floated beside his bed, reading a holo-slate with a detached look.
“Your latest scans seem to be showing a return to normal wavelengths, though, I am somewhat concerned about a small abnormality.” Pin-pick eyes focused on him and Tyrin lent back, away from the glare. The vernberni’s eyes did not blink naturally like an organic creature would, instead, they had a tendency to shutter wide or small depending on a variety of different reasons—one being its mood. “I want you back in here weekly for scans.”
“What? Why?” It came out in a whine, for which he was promptly clapped over the head with the holo-slate.
“Need I remind you the possibility of your losing your marbles and killing the crew with your brain.”
“Fine. Fine. Still have no idea what marbles are…” he muttered.
Tyrin bent low, touching his boots, arching long at the stretch. “So, where am I supposed to go before the briefing, do I wait here?”
“And torture me with your nattering. Merciful Cluster, no.”
“Here I thought this was the beginning of a special bond.”
The vernberni bonked him over the head with the holo-slate again. “I have organised to make sure you are bunked with one of the biggest idiots on board.”
Being called an idiot by a vernberni was probably a compliment.
Tyrin scratched his ear. How was he supposed to bunk with someone and hide his craft? His twin tails twitched irritably, confined to the tightness of the chrome-suit. He had been under the impression he was going to receive separate quarters, but then, what if that was highly unorthodox—it would have made him unusual, well, more unusual than he already was.
“Can’t I just stay with you?”
An aspirated sigh came from within the vernberni, released through vents hidden beneath its plain poncho. “Hiding behind my rings will do you no good. Good forth and grow up young one.”
“But I thought I was supposed to be hiding behind your rings.”
Laughter. He heard honest, rich laughter from the vernberni for the first time. It was tinny, ringing out through mental like wind through chimes. Tyrin had a momentary, horrifying though—how was this tiny, delicate creature beside him—with laughter so sweet—supposed to be a nightmare?
“Ah, your wit amuses me.”
“So, I can stay here.”
“No.” Little Doc floated away. “You must find your own way. I am but a star, a refuge for lost travellers.”
Tyrin pouted. Great. Now the vernberni was waxing nonsense. “Fine. What’s this litins name?”
“Deneel.” A hint of fondness rose from the vernberni. “I have known him since he was born.” Little Doc focused on something distant, its flickering eyes centring on a memory. Tyrin’s neck fur ruffled, the skin beneath tickling with an eerie sensation of energy building within the air.
Little Doc’s head suddenly snapped towards the door as it slid open, admitting a beam of light into the dim medical bay. Tyrin blinked back tears. He had not realised how dark the medical bay was. Did Little Doc prefer to keep the lights low? Or perhaps it simply did not register light in the same manner he did and could not tell how dim it was.
The litin who stepped in was tall, almost too tall. He just missed hitting the doorframe as he swept in with a flamboyant flounce. Had he been wearing a traditional costume for a Festival Dance, and not a chromesuit, the action would have been appropriate, but instead it looked rather comical without such attire.
“I am here, Gigi! And I bring you your requested beverage!”
Little Doc floated past, snatching a slate mug out of the litin’s paw.
“Is it a double shot?”
“Do you think I would cheat you?”
“Gigi!” The litin mocked stabbing itself in the chest.
Little Doc shipped from the cup. A loud hum emitted from its mechanics as a brighter warm shine began to shine beneath its habit. “It will do.”
Little Doc floated back to its desk. “That is Prince Tyrin, your new bunk mate. As I stipulated in my message. Please keep him alive.”
Tyrin felt himself glanced over. It was not with a craft that he was being accessed, but something else entirely—something he had no knowledge of—something so normal he could not even grasp it.
“That is going to be easier said then done, Gigi.”
“The Cluster would be very upset if he was to die.”
“Can’t have the Mother World upset.” The litin laughed.
An enthusiastic paw was suddenly thrown out in front of him. “Commander Deneel Monahue. Ex-Lugger, Military Pride.”
Tyrin accepted the paw, taking a deep breath as he was overwhelmed from the contact. Though he knew in advance it was something he was going to need to become accustomed to, the tactile exchange that assaulted his craft and overwhelmed his senses, being aware of it made little difference. He was still rammed by the emotional hurricane that was the litin in front of him. It was as though someone had sucked up one of the fire-whirls within the desert and let it loose. Untamed and wild, full of boiling heat and a desperation to prove himself, all hidden by the most handsome of smiles. Tyrin quickly snatched his paw back, struggling against the ache in his arm.
“He is Commander of the Azure Squadron.” Little Doc flippantly commented.
“It is very proud of me.” Deneel clapped a paw to his chest several times. “Aren’t yah, Gigi!”
“Yes. So proud.” Little Doc did not look up from the holo-slate it was reading.
Tyrin’s brow lifted. The Azure Squadron was one of the two fighter squadrons the Celetris contained for space combat. To be the squadron commander in a new vessel such as the Celetris while so young, with the background of a Lugger, surely had to be a considerable achievement. “Deneel is also one of Celetris’ helmsmen. That one I am proud of.” Little Doc added. “Proves you are not just a hot-headed idiot.”
“Love you too, Gigi.” Deneel threw his arms around Little Doc, chair and all.
“Get off me, cub! Off! Off!”
Tyrin hid his smile behind a paw at the unexpected scene. Deneel yelped loudly, springing away from Little Doc and the sparks of energy funnelling down the metal implants attached to its neck and chin.
“It loves me, really.” Deneel whispered conspiratorially.
Tyrin arched an eyebrow. Considering this was the first time he had seen a litin act familial with a vernberni, he was going to accept that as fact.
The pilot leant back on Little Doc’s desk, snatching up one of the many knickknacks to fiddle. “I rotate shifts with other helmslitin. I’m off duty right now so Little Doc said to take you on a tour and get you settled into our unit before the big briefing.”
“Oh…” Tyrin looked down at his pack. There was little in it, but wherever he was going to put the things he did value enough to have taken, would become home for the next five rotations. That thought alone was considerably overwhelming and he quickly shoved it down, tightly, into a box.
He would be fine.
“That would be great, thank you.” He smiled.
“Yes. Get out of my office.” Little Doc snatched the knickknack out of Deneel’s grasp.
Tyrin’s ears flipped back. “Do I get an office?”
“Out!” Little Doc pointed to the door. “Out! Out!”
Deneel steered him towards the entrance. “Best do as it says, it gets very cranky when it hasn’t had its morning brew.”
“Shut up, you little onkie.”
“Love you too, Gigi.” Deneel blew a kiss back through the door before dragging Tyrin out into the corridor. He was steered by the shoulders by the far taller litin towards a set of lifts. Tyrin had the oddest feeling that Deneel would have simply picked up him and promptly carried him due to how much faster that action would have made the whole process. He was soon stuck awkwardly in the lift with the tall litin, who was humming a cheerful song to himself, tail dancing along to the tune. A tail that had bells attached. Bells—ceremonial bells—bells given only to a select few who had been daring, or foolish, enough to perform the dangerous Path to the Heart of Tyrin, the same path taken by the Great Unifier Kulfiai when attempting to bring seek wisdom from The Pioneers.
That a Lugger had done such a rite of passage even few of the Warrior Pride undertook seemed overwhelmingly momentous. Just how much had Deneel done to prove himself to litin society, and had he ever been truly acknowledged?
“So…ah…you seem to…get along with…Little Doc…” Tyrin winced at his horrible, nervous, squeaky voice. His chrome-suit suddenly felt like it was suffocating him.
“Oh, I’ve been on several long halls with Little Doc, and way before that, I knew it as a cub when it joined our lugger caravan.” Deneel twirled playfully on his boots. “According to my parents it even helped deliver me after complications with my mother’s pregnancy. It saved her life, and mine, according to hearsay.”
“So…then…calling it Gigi is more than a form of endearment, you do actually see it as your Gigi.” Tyrin mused aloud. Did being a Lugger allow for a certain openness and willingness to accept the unknown?
Deneel laughed, slapping his back several times. “Wow. You’re really good at this! What can you tell me about my childhood and traumas, have they impacted me now and can I improve myself?”
Tyrin rubbed his neck. “Come to my office, when I find it, and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Never really heard counselling referred to as exciting, but okay, we’ll call it that.”
“Hey, hey, five rotations, my friend. Ships Counsellor is a great idea for long halls. Our Captain is a smart litin. Space does nasty things to your mind when you’re out here and I can’t even begin to explain what happens when you do a spacewalk…you’re gonna need to watch the Walkies really closely. We tend to lose a couple to…well…its bad superstition to say.”
Tyrin made a mental note. Walkies. He was going to need to look that up. He had a feeling his first cycles were going to consist of a considerable amount of reading holo-slates.
After stepping out of the lift into what Deneel called ‘The Home Deck’ they passed by scattered personnel every so often and Deneel cheerfully greeted each one, bumping fists with those he seemed to know well, embracing even one. The pilot seemed to blend so easily, Tyrin was surprised the very colour of his pelt did not change colour to match that of whomever he was speaking to. His body shifted to different positions with ease, practiced and poised, almost reflecting a mirror image of whomever he was speaking to.
It was all an act—a dance—a facade. He would almost have said that Deneel had a craft—even more of one than he did. He put on a fabricated mask for each and every spacelitin they met along their journey to the living quarters. By the time they reached what Tyrin could only presume was the door leading to their assigned unit, Tyrin was utterly lost. Every corridor looked exactly the same; all dull, grey and monotoned, the lights evenly spaced, boxed in by metal, with brief hints of windows to the outside wonder of space.
Deneel pawed a hand over an activation panel and the door folded back with a the whirl of brand new mechanisms. How long those mechanisms would remain nice and oiled remained to be seen along their five rotation journey. Tyrin stepped into the unit at Deneel’s flowing, over the top gesture.
“Your new home!”
It was extremely underwhelming. Two beds, tucked into the wall spaces, along with small desks for working, with more boring lights boxed in by metal cages. Off to the side was a small door to what must have been the lavatory.
“Got some space for your junk.” Deneel motioned to the storage spaces above and below his bed. “Simple, but effective. If the artificial gravity fails, everything is buckled down, and we have straps for sleeping.”
“The gravity can fail?”
“Cub, everything could fail.” He was given an odd smile of reassurance. “Best to always be prepared for the worst. Which is why the door is set to have an alarm for you, encase you’re ever in the nude and need to quickly cover your twin tails.”
Tyrin’s breath caught in his chest. He reached for his tail, slowly pulling it closer to him.
“You…know…you know…what I am?”
“Sure.” Deneel walked past him, rolling a shoulder to ease the tension. “It’s policy to unit together. It would have been weird if you got special treatment when even the Captain units with the Commander.” He spread his paws at their joint unit. “So how were you expecting to manage getting out of that chrome-suit in front of me? Were you never going to take it off? What if I walked in here one day while you were dressing?”
Tyrin sighed. He had not really thought that far ahead, but, he was not surprised that the vernberni tasked with his safety had already long thought it through.
“Little Doc, right?”
Deneel flopped down on his bed. Gone was the relaxed, flamboyant litin and in its place was exhaustion and an oddly normal, stale tone. “You’re lucky you’ve got Gigi on your side.”
“So, you…do not mind…” He rubbed an ear.
“That you’re a crafter?” Deneel sat up, hooking his chin under a knee. “I couldn’t care less. Us luggers aren’t really born with all that prejudice junk staining our minds. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they try to shove it down our throats if we choose to do our University or Military rotations, but we’ve got fortitude to endure all that brain rot.”
Deneel’s pink neck-feathers fluffed out, and his smile was honest and genuine. Tyrin’s taunt shoulders gradually relaxed. For all the bravo Deneel was displaying, the underlining emotion was not a pleasant one. Memories were being evoked, causing a souring of Deneel’s bubbly, bright mental tone. He had not been treated well upon Ghaliya. The endurance he spoke of had been tested to its extreme. Perhaps that was where the facade had begun? A mask to hold in the damage of the taunts.
“Thank you.” Tyrin bowed his head. “I am grateful for your sacrifice.”
“Sacrifice? Okay, Ty. Ty.” A paw was held out. “I’m not doing this because I was forced to or something. Gigi asked and I agreed. You’re doing me a favour, with you here, I don’t have to put on a show to another crewmate that I might get randomly assigned too.”
It was assignment by random selection? That seemed like a recipe for disaster. There had to be another way for unit selection to be better managed. His mental notes were beginning to pile up. Why was he getting an uncomfortable feeling that the Captain was not going to be overly pleased with many of his eventual findings.
“You’re not worried I might…hurt you?”
Deneel rolled his eyes. “Ah, yeah, nah. I trust Gigi’s judgement and my own. I think I’ve got more of a chance of dying in my fighter cockpit than by your weird whoo-whoo brain.”
He was firmly clapped on the back, hard enough to send him stumbling towards the door.
“Just don’t do your freaky stuff on me when I’m in a bad mood.”
“That is sort of the point though.” Tyrin rubbed his shoulder. “We are trained to help ease such negative emotions.”
“Ever thought that maybe some folk like to try and process their own emotions?” Deneel shrugged. “Just, give it a thought, cub.” His nose was flicked playfully and Tyrin slapped a paw over it. Deneel grinned as he activated the door and flung a slate key to Tyrin.
“Don’t lose that, it will get you into our unit.”
His very own slate key, to his own shared unit. Not even when he had attended the University had he been permitted such a thing, he had always been escorted on and off the University to a special compound for crafters. He tucked it carefully into his chrome-suit, giving it a pat.
Deneel pointed to a pad by the door as it slid shut.
“If the red indicator is on, it means I’m busy…with a friend…”