A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 39byTaLtos6©
***A long time ago, I saw a documentary about a tribe of people on an island in the Pacific. They'd lived simple lives until World War II, when an army came to occupy the place. The tribe suffered and prayed to their deity, and as if in answer to their prayers, huge birds glided down out of the sky and disgorged men who fought the other men and defeated them. Even more, those friendly and kind men provided food from metal containers and medicine to heal the sick and injured among them. Then the mysterious saviors left.
For the next 30 years, those islanders worshiped large idols of the huge birds who had brought the other men and they prayed for their return.
That's what inspired me a little in this chapter. It has nothing whatsoever to do with history or any actual events in the past.
So we turn westward once more to the ruins of Lozenjellis. It's a rather dark place now.
But there are bright spots - if you look really hard. 0_o
Book of the Merren Part 16
He lifted off slowly in just the way that it irked him to do it. He'd never throw the throttles to the stops and blast away as if he was back at a forward operating base or in a hot landing zone, but these 'regal' liftoffs and climb-outs were just wasting fuel cells to his mind. It bothered him to no end working at this job. But his meal ticket insisted on 'majestic' handling whenever he was aboard.
Tirran sarcastically translated the term in his mind for the hundredth time, adding the Merren's tired and creaky voice to it as a soundtrack.
"'Majestic handling' means take off and fly so smoothly near the ground and at slow speed so that I can look out of the window and not fear to spill a drop of the expensive and hard to obtain liqueur that I like to sip while my latest trophy pretends to enjoy sucking my withered old stick -- and The Balance save you if I actually get hard and you do anything after she climbs on, because if you do anything to upset that blessed event, I will see to it that you fly refuse trips for the rest of your worthless life."
The military Xer pilot kept stealing glances at the camera feed from the passenger compartment. If he saw this fucking miracle beginning to happen, he'd make sure that he'd magically encounter enough turbulence to cause the Merren ex-dancer and part-time whore to end up across the cabin with a broken arm and cracked ribs.
Just like the last one.
He was sarcastic and irreverent in his dealings with his assignment -- knowing just how much insubordination to toss into it at all times. They hated each other.
He'd spent his teenage years in the flight academy, pulling top scores every inch of the way, two more years in combat flight training and three tours in the duty. He'd flown it all, from transport to interception to heart-stopping 'ground-pounding' as the close air support role was termed. But the wars were dying down for a time as they always did now and then. Faced with too many pilots, there had been cuts made and though he couldn't prove it, Tirran knew who it had been that had ended his combat ride.
He'd been summoned to an office in a part of his unit's headquarters where he'd never been before for a meeting. It wasn't usually where the kiss-off came, but ...
He'd been told that he would be remaining on-strength but that he was being assigned to 'indefinite special duty', some of it covert and the request had been for him alone by name. If he accepted this assignment, he would be as classified as the missions so that meant that he was not to associate with anyone on the base. He couldn't understand that, but he went along with it because he had to. Any other answer but 'yes' would see him out on the street like so many other ex-pilots and Tirran needed to fly.
The 'Top-Secret' assignment had turned out to be flying an old hack Merren bureau chief around as his personal pilot for the most part. He'd been recommended when the Merren government minister had asked for the best. That meant little to Tirran's CO. He was another jock in a too-full crayon box and while Tirran really was his best fast-mover pilot, he'd also become a bit of a problem.
Tirran liked males, and his CO found a latent desire for the young officer within himself. It had gone on for half a cycle and had to end sometime. The CO had a career to protect and a wife who knew nothing of her husband's predilections. He was looking for a way to break this off which offered better odds that his young lover might survive, though he knew that Tirran would never have understood.
"It's the best I can do for you," the CO had said, "This way, you'll still get your rate and some hefty hazard pay because if something goes wrong - unless you manage to set it down near our units anywhere, there's nobody gonna come and get your ass out of the sling. There's even a bonus for every landing - if it's anything like you'd call hazardous, and that's up to your judgement alone since you're the crew.
Look, just fly this ticket wherever the hell he wants to go, because unless there's a war soon, when this ride ends, you're looking for another job so bank your pay while you're making good gold."
When the senior officer tried to explain why he was ending their relationship, Tirran's face had turned to stone as he stood waiting for his commander to finish speaking before he said a very cold thank you and saluted by the book, saying that he'd take the ride. Tirran had walked away then with something and someone else to hate.
The ride turned out to be a bit of a surprise in itself. It was a Xer frigate, almost new but retired and pulled out of the line of a rather covert squadron for this. It had been refitted and modified for single pilot operation, though the co-pilot's seat was still there. As it sat, it was all-business, a rather large but very capable hot-rod, stripped down to save mass and this variant had been made to engage multiple threats with ease - if one could survive the gut-wrenching and vision-darkening moves that a pilot like Tirran could put it through. That was why he'd been amazed to see one like this in the first place. This variant was classified out the ass. He'd heard of them - but he'd never seen one until then.
All of the insignia and unit markings were gone and it sat alone in a guarded hangar in new paint, as dull and black as a piece of bituminous coal -- looking as though it absorbed the light around it. Tirran had stared and wondered just who the fuck this old weasel was that he could command something like this to happen. As he'd stepped aboard, the first thing that he's done was look at the weapons compartments. He'd felt his jaw fall open then.
A Xer frigate for him to fly, armed and carrying a light combat load. No bombs of course, but there were missiles on the racks in the compartments, mostly what he'd have called defensive capability. The retracted gun pods weren't empty either.
"Do you like it?" the Merren asked as he walked up behind his new pilot, "I looked over your records and I found that this type seems to fit you the best out of them all, and it will do nicely for my needs after the cabin is refitted a little more comfortably for me. You have overcome up to nine of the fastest interceptors at once in one a little like this, flying it just as your opponents flew their own and you were all that was left in the quadrant when you were done."
Tirran nodded, "I read the specs well. This model can handle the same stresses or better, and with the right engines -- "
"Which I made certain that it would have," the old bureaucrat chuckled, "Its only disadvantage is its size, though for short trips if I need it, there is a small and quick little cutter aboard for the purpose."
"And very little else," the Xer said, "I've only heard rumors about this variant. I've never seen one. They're held on-call, show up out of nowhere and wipe the space around them. Then they're gone. Who are we going to kill? This is pretty fast and heavy on the guns for diplomatic duty."
"I have things to do for Mer," the minister shrugged, "Places to fly where I might need you and this craft. I am told that you are light on the controls. I need a pilot who can set this down and takeoff again with little fuss and no lights in darkness if possible a lot of the time. I wish to have the best ship and the best pilot. When you get to my age, it becomes a little important that you stay alive."
They had a short meeting then and the duties and responsibilities were laid out a little proudly by the bureaucrat, but at the end, he'd been asked if he understood it all. Tirran had nodded and said his piece then.
"I think that I can see that the way that this bird sits here, there's a reason why it's blacked-out. There are no marking, not even a registration number anywhere. I looked around a little and I didn't find one serial number on anything inside. To me, that means that whatever you want this thing for is very likely as illegal as hell on your world. You obtained this ride expressly for the purpose of breaking Merren laws, and you need deniability if something hits the tank.
That's also why this thing isn't a Merren bird, and why the pilot that you just had to have is a Xer. You need me, don't you? Well I can tell you that I'm pissed off that I was chosen and quietly fucked over so that I'd take the ride, not having any other choice.
So I'll fly your ass wherever you need to go, but I don't have to like it -- or you. So cut the shit and stop trying to win me over, since that's not going to happen - ever."
Since then, their relationship was little more than businesslike and rather quiet. It was the level of clearance which still amazed Tirran every time.
There were times when they flew into restricted space and nobody questioned them or their intent. The few times that they were queried, all that Tirran had so say was their call sign, identifying themselves only as "Redblade One-one" and though there might be a moment or two of confusion as the controllers frantically looked up that little-heard call sign, they were always cleared a moment later and all other questions ceased as if by magic.
Landing spaces in busy ports miraculously opened to receive them where only moments before, they'd been told that there was no space for them and Tirran didn't even want to think too hard about some of the people that they'd carried -- without clearance or paperwork. They'd even flown into and out of a war-zone to deliver one person. Tirran still wondered about that.
When he'd asked about the rules of engagement, all that his ticket had said was, "Your job is to get us in and out while keeping me alive. Engage anyone that you think needs killing," he'd said as he'd turned to head for his seat to strap in. He placed his ancient Merren hand on Tirran's shoulder and said, "From the instant that you receive clearance for your approach, you are authorized as weapons-free. Destroy anyone who might interfere. Anyone."
Tirran had nodded then and activated the automatic acquisition systems. As he'd flown in and out again a half an hour later, even so much as an angry gopher who raised his head was dead and Tirran flew back to the base on Xer with most of his weapon load-out expended.
One of the minister's pet projects had turned out to be Earth, not that the Xer could give a damn, he thought. It was just another place which was in the early stages of being prepped for total Merren fuck-over to him.
They spent a fair amount of time on Earth, the old bastard liking to live at what had once been the Merren outpost on that world. Tirran flew him back and forth to one of two places to the west -- either in Lozenjellis or to a large deserted base north of there. For the first few trips, the Xer had been bored out of his mind, because once the old office maven was off and gone to wherever he had to be, Tirran usually had a few days to kill all by himself.
Like a lot of aircrew who'd spent much time in combat zones in their past, time often weighed heavily on him, and like a lot of those people in that situation, he'd picked up the absurd habit of smoking, since a plant much like tobacco grew on Xer. He usually made sure that he had plenty for these runs. He didn't smoke while he was flying, but once the boredom set in ...
But his life changed when they'd made a quick and unexpected run into Lozenjellis one night and as soon as the self-important old buzzard had figured that he'd be a while, he'd told Tirran they'd be here for at least five days. Tirran wasn't pleased since he was almost out of something to smoke. He hadn't exactly been told that they'd be out here for long, so he'd brought little along with him.
But he knew enough about the customs here to know that he ought to be able to purchase some of the local equivalent. Nobody had told him that he wasn't to walk around in the ruined city, so he packed a personal sidearm and decided to go for a walk. It was the middle of the night, but ...
It was also one of the relatively few nights out of the year when it rained in Lozenjellis. Cursing his amazing lack of luck, Tirran had set off, walking through the almost deserted streets of the warehouse district in a part of the place that had once been called Riverside. He saw almost no one, and anybody that he did run into took one look at him and ran.
Tirran wasn't large by Xer standards. He stood a little over six feet, three inches tall, and though he was fit and looked it, he wasn't exactly rippling with muscles. But to the eyes of most humans, he didn't need to be. He could see that this little adventure was going to be a bust as he stood not far from a street corner in the rain, wishing that he knew somebody here who could tell him just where in the hell he could buy something to smoke.
He was about to retrace his steps when he noticed her, a rather thin human female standing on the opposite corner as she regarded him very nervously from under the hood of her cloak. He was mildly curious as to why she was still there after a minute or so, so he waved a little.
She approached him slowly -- as though she was prepared to run if he made the slightest move. Tirran wanted to chuckle at the thought. She obviously knew nothing of Xer and how fast they could run if they wanted to.
In a minute, she stood in front of him, looking up "Habla Espanol?" she asked quietly. In this neck of the woods, many of the werewolves had been Hispanic before they'd been turned. She didn't think that he was one, but she'd learned to be cautious. It was why she was still alive.
Tirran could speak several languages, and English wasn't his best, since he'd never thought that he'd ever be here, but he could manage it fairly well. Whatever she was talking about disappointed him slightly. He doubted that he'd get any directions to something smokeable out of this.
He shook his head with a shrug, "I don't know what you're saying."
The young woman was amazed, "You speak English? What are you, ..." she looked down to his midsection for a moment to determine his gender for certain, "hombre? You don' look like anybody from aroun' here. I never see somebody like you before." She looked at his face as though she was trying to see how this outlandish costume might be put together as she reached out very carefully to touch his fur, "You look like a perro -- a dog."
She stood maybe five foot six or seven inches tall, not that he was acquainted with human measurement. He only knew that she came up to below his chin or thereabouts. He thought about what he felt as well as what he saw. He'd never heard this dialect before, but he knew that it was an affected accent.
He chuckled quietly for a moment, "I think I know what a dog is," he said, "but I am not trying to look like anything but what I am, and if you want to talk to me, then please drop your pretense at being what you are not."
"You don' know me, Hombre," she said, trying to sound at least a little dangerous, "You don' know anythin' about me."
"No," he said, "and if you keep speaking that way, you can go back to your corner there and I'll leave. This is a waste of time."
She seemed to shrink a little before him as she looked at him and obviously thought about something for a moment, "Ok," she said with no accent whatsoever, "Look Mister, or, ... whoever you are, I'm just a girl who's really in need of a bit of coin right now."
Tirran knew that she had a knife under that cloak and he also knew it as she abandoned the attempt at robbery. She was plainly desperate, but she was still somewhere that she hadn't left behind yet.
She looked at him and squeezed her eyes shut for a second until the pain of her hunger passed. He could see that she was struggling with something as she took a breath. "If you've got any coin on you, how about I suck you for a little of it. I need some food bad."
Tirran had never been one who could be accused of being very charitable toward others in any regard, and if he had to be, then his first thought might have been toward helping another Xer, if anything. But he could see that she was shaking with hunger and weakness.
"How much?" he asked and he could see her thinking about it.
"Fuck, I'll take anything," she said, "There's no use trying to be proud anymore. I'm starving. I'll take whatever you'll give me for it."
He looked at her and he could see that she'd seen better days, as young as she looked to him, not that he was a great judge of human females. She was a little pretty -- what he could see of her under that hood, he thought, and she didn't look to be diseased. She just looked to be nearing the end of her rope.
"I'll tell you what," he said, "To be sincere or ,..." he sought for a better word," - honest with you, I like males. But I can see that you're in need. I don't want to take advantage of you at all." He reached into the pouch that he wore on his gunbelt and pulled out a single gold coin and her eyes almost fell out of her face.
"You need something in you soon," he said, "Give me your hand. I won't hurt you."
She held out her hand and he placed the coin in it, closing her fingers and then holding onto her fist just tight enough to make his point. "It's been a while for me, and I don't even know if you can do it for me anyway, but you can have the coin for nothing. If you want to try, I think I would like that, and I might even be able to give you a meal if you want to swallow. At least you'll have something in your stomach.
Keep the coin no matter what you decide. And this is not any form of clothing. I'm not human and I'm naked, but as I said, I won't hurt you. If you need to know, what you'd get is about the same as what you'd get out of a human male -- just a bit more of it, I've heard.
Anyway, it's your choice as soon as I let go of your hand. Do you understand?"
She looked up at him in a little fear and he shook his head, "I'm not going to hurt you," he repeated softly. He really wanted to see what she'd do, more than anything. He expected her to run off with his coin. He found that he didn't mind.
He let go of her hand and she opened it to look at the coin for a moment. "I -- I can just ... go if I want?"
He nodded, "Buy some food with that in the morning and take care of yourself. I do not know what brought you to these circumstances, but I wish that they improve for you."
She looked at what he had between his legs for a second, "But -- I don't want to go, I -"
She swallowed hard for a moment, "I mean, thank you, Mister. Thanks for this, but you said, ..."
She exhaled, "You said that you'd feed me. For this much money, I'd like to try to please you if I could."
Before he could refuse as he now thought to do, she sank to her knees on the wet and dirty sidewalk and brought her face to him. He felt her breath against his genitals and he was a little surprised that he was beginning to wish that she might do this for him after all. It came as a surprise to him when he felt her kiss him very softly.